Yes, I’ve heard the crate story. In enough versions that I don’t believe it anymore. So it wasn’t too surprising to find out that St. Expeditus appeared in a 5th century martyrology (though one notorious for having enough misspellings to drive Nihil Obstat around the bend); he was one of a group of martyrs killed in Melitene, on April 19th in the year 303. Devotion to St. Expeditus seems to have begun in the Middle Ages thanks to his punning name (“Expeditus” means a kind of Roman footsoldier marching unimpeded by baggage, as well as “fast”). The usual iconography shows a Roman soldier holding a cross marked “Hodie” (Today) stepping on a raven crawing “Cras!” (Tomorrow). Devotion originally centered in Sicily and Italy and seems to have spread out from there, especially in seafaring towns.
Devotion to saints can sometimes be a scandal to non-Catholics, and things like the crate story don’t help. It also doesn’t help that childlike faith can sometimes sound a lot like belief in magic. (And if you’re not careful, it can go that way literally, as with all that voodoo syncretism.) So it’s easy to point and laugh and not look farther — much easier than trying to understand a tradition that is helpful to many people around the world.
But I’ll stick my neck out. There is something nice about people in urgent need being able to turn to a brother from the early Church. History may not even have gotten his name right, but God can turn even a typo into a help and encouragement for his people. I’m sure Expeditus doesn’t mind being known as God’s footsoldier. I’m not ashamed to know him, either.
As the Wall Street Journal noted in this week heading up to his festival, St. Expeditus seems to be getting very popular in Brazil.
The interesting thing to notice here is that the usual urban legend about the crates resurfaces, but this time it’s supposed to be in Paris instead of Sao Paulo, New Orleans, or Haiti. Usually everybody seems to be convinced that the crate stamped “Expedite” showed up _in their city_, which is a sure sign that it prolly ain’t true.
A nice webpage full of good info, taking St. Expeditus’ popularity back into medieval times. Additional info in Italian, if you want to use the Fish. Also, an archive of iconography — in the form of Word documents, for some bizarre reason! Anyway, the Italian site not only quotes the actual martyrology lists, but also theorizes that the iconography comes from an artistic representation of how the soul should not put off following Christ, but instead do it “hodie”.In this interp, the raven is either a devil or the soul’s own annoying procrastination. This makes good sense to me.
This Argentinean site has a lot of nice things, including a list of churches.
San Expedito’s Church in Renaca, Chile includes some very nice pictures and a local hymn to St. Expeditus. If you stay on long enough, you can hear it!
A rough translation:
Patron Saint Expedito,
You clear up the fog on the sea
So that in the firmament
The sunlight will shine more brightly
And so your contented village
Can sing to Love and Peace: (ie, God)
“Long live our protector,
Warrior martyr of Christ,
We thank your Lord.
Long live our protector,
Loyal and blessed shield,
You call on the Lord “today”!”
Strong and straightforward patron,
With Our Mother you are
United to all your children
Before this temple of peace.
And so Renaca is witness
Like the sun, it shines brighter.
The site also includes the cutest folk prayer yet: “San Expedito, San Expedito, concedemelo altirito!”
A page full of images courtesy of the “Republic of Molossia”, which is some guy out in Nevada. Nice page, even though it’s a joke.
Catholic Forum’s page is short and sweet.
Saints Preserved claims St. Expedite’s patronage for computer programmers. Heh. Also note yet _another_ version of the urban legend.
Check out Dr Bob’s rather cute image of St. Expeditus bookin’ it! He replaces the raven with a gator…. 😉 OTOH, I’m not impressed with the domain rates. There’s also an express package company in the UK named Expeditus after the saint.
Czech church with a St. Expeditus painting from 1760 (not shown).
An overview of New Orleans voodoo tours, which mentions the Church of Our Lady of Guadelupe and its famous statue of St. Expedite. What isn’t said here, but I read on a Catholic blog, is that there’s also a statue of St. Jude on the other side of church. So SOP is to tell St. Jude about your impossible problem, then go over to the other side and ask St. Expedite to see about getting it done fast. No wonder the police and fire departments use this parish as their own, having lots of emergencies and hopeless cases to deal with….
Google has a cached entertainment column from Malaya – The National Newspaper, which includes a prayer to St. Expeditus as “the bearer of money”. In order to thank the saint, you’re supposed to give alms to the elderly or a pregnant woman. This is the kind of devotion that sounds kinda iffy…but I guess it’s no worse than the Jabez prayer.
This Argentinean site includes more folk prayers: “San Expedito, San Expedito, dame lo que necesito” and “Confio en ti, San Expedito, que cubras con tu mano bienhechora todo lo que necesito”. (“St. Expedito, St. Expedito, give me what is needed” and “I trust in you, St. Expedito, that you will cover with your benefactory hand all that is needed”. (“Good-doing” just doesn’t work in English, does it?) There’s also another hymn to St. Expeditus:
“A thousand hymns to glorious Expedito
Who shed his blood in Armenia
Your name is written in heaven
And you won the martyr’s laurel.”
(The skywritten name on the other Argentinean site is probably a reference to this hymn.)
The Detroit Free Press suggests celebrating St. Expeditus’ Day by sending checks to all those charities you’ve been meaning to get around to.
Happy St. Expeditus’ Day, fellow procrastinators! May St. Expeditus pray for us, that like him, we may find at our deaths that we have traveled to heaven most expeditiously!