Daily Archives: November 23, 2008

Piper Saint?

As I predicted, my Porta Ceili picture idea has found favor in the eyes of The Inn at the End of the World. Yes, there’s a real lack of pictures of angels merrily making music to the Lord, and particularly with folk instruments.

As for musician saints, I would add the missionary, composer, and violin/fiddle player St. Francisco Solano, who was Ven. Solanus Casey’s namesake. He was also a polyglot and a prophet, in his copious spare time. 🙂

There are a good number of known saints from Irish poet families, partly because there was a graceful overlap between the poet’s religious and secular functions and the work and education expected of an Irish monk. I’m not really too knowledgeable on saintly bards, harpers, or other professional musicians. However, the vast majority of Irish monks apparently knew and played tiny portable harps, because it was a good way to pass time when walking or singing psalms.

Bagpipes go across a lot of cultures, so logically there’d be some piper saints! I wonder who the McCrimmons had as a patron saint….

However, Sabine Baring-Gould’s Lives of the Saints (the volume on March) notes the story of St. Philemon and St. Apollonius, set in the city of Antinoe in Egypt, during Diocletian’s persecution. (Yes, Egyptians play bagpipes!) It seems that Deacon Apollonius was deathly afraid of torture. So during the persecutions, he went to a local piper, actor, and dancer named Philemon — a guy from the governor’s household — and hired this pagan guy to go sacrifice to the Emperor and claim to be named Apollonius. That way, Apollonius could have his papers saying he’d done his imperial duty, but wouldn’t actually have to lie or apostasize himself. (St. Cyprian wasn’t too hep on this tactic, of course!)

So Philemon said, “Okay,” and went to see the local magistrate, all muffled up in a cloak. And, claiming to be Apollonius the deacon, he refused to sacrifice.

Just then, Philemon’s brother Theonas showed up and recognized him. He told the judge that it was just his brother, playing a joke, and Philemon was decloaked to much laughter. But Philemon insisted that he was serious about not sacrificing, and that he was Christian even though he hadn’t been baptized. He prayed that Christ would baptize him, and a miraculous cloud appeared and sprinkled him.

Unsatisfactorily for pipers, the story then relates that he proved his conversion by breaking his pipes and throwing them away.

(Did I mention that bagpipes and flutes were associated with lasciviousness in the classical world? I get that impression, anyway, from all those flute girls and satyrs….)

At this point, Deacon Apollonius was hauled in, and directly challenged by the magistrate. The deacon, impressed by the Christian bravery of Philemon, said that he now knew better and would die before sacrificing. So the deacon and the retired piper were martyred together, and eventually the evil judge was converted by a miraculous healing and martyred, too. Feast day in the West: March 8.

St. Philemon the Piper on a Greek Orthodox bishopric’s page which describes him as a flute-player. Feast day in the East: Dec. 14.

However, bagpipes did get a better reputation in Christendom. Apparently, bagpipes (and shawms) were regarded as very merry instruments, and thus particularly suitable for keeping up people’s spirits on long pilgrim journeys. Bagpipes were good instruments for weddings. (Still are.) They were an instrument of war also, like trumpets and drums. Also, their reputation was enhanced by an epistle by a Pseudo-Jerome, which claimed that the “chorus” (bagpipe) was used as a liturgical instrument by the Jews in the Temple.
So logically, angelic and human angels were depicted often in and on churches, particularly on pilgrimage churches like Compostela’s.

Now, of course there are tons of named angel lists and named angel choir lists, so I’m sure your medieval scholar could easily deduce the choir to which angelic bagpipers belong. And there you’ll find a very satisfyingly large group of patron saints for pipers. 🙂


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St. Therese Out in Space!

Via Curt Jester, we now know that Colonel Ron Garan, mission specialist on STS-124 in May/June 2008, brought along a relic of St. Therese in his personal allowance, as a favor to and from some Texan Carmelite nuns. This has certain implications.


10. As was pointed out, St. Therese’s relics have now traveled around the world just as her message of God’s love has. Seeing as she had wished during her life to be able to travel to her sisters in Hanoi and other far places, but was unable to do so because of health and God’s rigorous training program for her, this is pretty fun!

“The sisters reported that the words of St. Thérèse came to mind: ‘I have the vocation of an apostle. I would like to travel over the whole earth to preach your name and to plant your glorious cross on infidel soil. But oh, my beloved, one mission would not be enough for me, I would want to preach the Gospel on all five continents simultaneously and even to the most remote isles. I would be a missionary, not for a few years but from the beginning of creation until the consummation of the ages.’

Likewise, “their sound hath gone forth into all the earth: and their words unto the ends of the world” (Ps. 18:5), as Dr. Thursday pointed out.

9. Simultaneously, she’s a Teacher in Space and a Doctor (of the Church) in Space!

8. Also from St. Therese’s autobiography: “O my only Friend, why dost Thou not reserve these infinite longings to lofty souls, to the eagles that soar in the heights? Alas! I am but a poor little unfledged bird. I am not an eagle, I have but the eagle’s eyes and heart! Yet, notwithstanding my exceeding littleless, I dare to gaze upon the Divine Sun of Love, and I burn to dart upwards unto Him! I would fly, I would imitate the eagles; but all that I can do is to lift up my little wings–it is beyond my feeble power to soar.”

7. Colonel Garan’s wife is named Carmel. I see a pattern here….

6. Traditionally, the spiritual life is compared to a ladder or stairway. St. Therese compared her “Little Way” to an elevator, because God was doing all the heavy lifting. So a rocketship is even more so!

5. Garan did a ton of spacewalk hours on this mission. If I were going to have to putter around doing work while floating in the depths of space, with very little between me and floating away forever, I think I’d want a relic along for company!

(Even if I were helping to deliver Kibo, a lab whose name means “hope” or “a good sign”.)

(Nothing at all to do with Leader Kibo. They swear.)

4. “When we were on the way home, I would gaze upon the stars which were twinkling ever so peacefully in the skies and the sight carried me away. There was especially one cluster of golden pearls which attracted my attention and gave me great joy because they were in the form of a -T-. I pointed them out to Papa and told him my name was written in heaven. Then desiring to look no longer at this dull earth, I asked him to guide my steps; and not looking where I placed my feet I threw back my head, giving myself over completely to the contemplation of the star-studded firmament!”

3. “God rejoices more in what He can do in a soul humbly resigned to its poverty, than in the creation of millions of suns and the vast stretch of the heavens.”

2. “With enraptured gaze, we beheld the white moon rising quietly behind the tall trees, the silvery rays it was casting upon sleeping nature, the bright stars twinkling in the deep skies… all this raised our souls to heaven.”

1. If the relic the Carmelites gave him was a first class relic, and if our astronaut friend should have happened to touch it to the space shuttle wall, would that mean that the whole space shuttle Discovery would then become a third class relic?

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The Eternal Sunshine of the Lime Green Font

Gmail now is available with themes, and most of them are the usual pretty-pretty pictures, blah-blah bland color bars, and chibi-chibi gratuitous ninjas.

But one of them — yes, one — has a black background, bright green font, and the Gmail logo done in ASCII art.

It’s not perfectly like the old days on the BBS or the Internet before the Endless September, but, oh, how calming! How freeing! How easy it is to delete whole pages worth of email, with those friendly, easy-to-read lime green letters motivating you to save space and bandwidth!

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