Category Archives: Saint Stories

English Language Source for Korean Saint Stories

CBCK is a site for all kinds of information about the Catholic Church in South Korea, and its history. It’s got a ton of info on the Korean martyrs, many of whom are very inspiring.

I have to admit that my favorite is St. Agatha Kim A-gi, who was very devout and determined, but who also had so much trouble memorizing and understanding things that she not only couldn’t learn her catechism, but couldn’t even learn the basic prayers. All she could do was repeat the names of Jesus and Mary.

But when she was arrested and questioned, and could only explain her faith by saying Jesus and Mary, she still refused to renounce it.

“Is it true you believe in the Catholic Church?”

“I don’t know about anything but Jesus and Mary.”

“If you can save your life by rejecting Jesus and Mary, wouldn’t you reject them?”

“I would rather die than reject them.”

She was tortured, but stayed stubborn, and eventually was taken to prison and the company of other Catholics. “Agatha who only knows Jesus and Mary” was a great inspiration to everyone. She hadn’t been baptized before because she had had such trouble learning the faith; but at that point, it became obvious that her heart-knowledge was that of a confessor, and she was baptized in prison. This gave her new strength, which was good because she was targeted for tons of torture and punishment before she was martyred.

Something I didn’t know that this site told me: she was a woman from a pagan family who married into a pagan family, but her older sister became Catholic and then basically nagged Agatha into belief. (To be fair, this sort of thing is an older sibling’s job in Korean culture!)

St. Lucia Pak Hui-sun is another great example. Even as a teenaged pagan/Confucian, she was outstandingly virtuous, serving as the queen’s lady in waiting and resisting the advances of the king. She was also as learned as she was beautiful, studying deeply in Chinese as well as in Korean. But she was unsatisfied, and at age 30 she began to study the forbidden — Catholicism. She escaped the court by feigning illness, and persisted despite family disapproval, living in poverty rather than going back to normal court lady life. Her sister came and lived with her, and both ended up converting to Catholicism.

When the police came to arrest them, St. Lucia came outside to greet them, inviting them to share food and wine as welcome guests. She said that since their coming was permitted by God’s will, it was good to receive them willingly.

In prison, St. Lucia acted as a catechist and evangelist, teaching everyone. (But not doing so well with St. Agatha, who apparently already knew all she needed to know!) Since she had the standing of a court lady, she received worse treatment than most of the others. (Because her conversion was seen as a betrayal of the Korean court and Korean law.)

As with a few of the women in prison together, she was tortured in open court and clearly was wounded savagely, as well as having her leg broken. But their wounds repeatedly healed in the course of a day or a few days, so that they could appear in court without wounds. This caused their judges and torturers both fear and an increase in fury. The miraculous healings were attributed to evil magic.

St. Lucia admonished her executioner not to hold back, but to execute her with a single stroke of the sword. She was beheaded on May 24, 1839, along with St. Agatha Kim A-gi, St. Petrus Kwon Tug-in, and several other martyrs of various walks of life.

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Crux Ignores Business Saints

It’s good that Crux is promoting the cause of an Argentine businessman, the Venerable Enrique Shaw.

But this is just not true:

“But if [his canonization] happens, this Argentine will become the first saint businessman since St. Homobonus, a 12th century Italian merchant who’s the patron of businesspeople, tailors, shoemakers, and cloth workers.”

Oh, come on. You don’t even have to think hard.

What about St. Zelie Guerin Martin, who ran a laceworking business employing many home laceworkers, or her husband, St. Louis Martin, who was a watchmaker, and later became his wife’s business manager?

What about St. Petrus Kwon Tug-in, who made and sold crucifixes and holy pictures, and was martyred for the faith in Seoul, Korea? When he was beheaded, there was a smile on his face even in death.

What about Bl. Bernadino de Feltre, the pious, miraculously healed Franciscan who organized a network of church-run pawnshops (monti di pieta or mons pietatis) to provide the poor with fair lending rates? (Well, okay, he’s not a saint yet.)

There’s many more examples, although of course it’s more common to hear about members of religious orders. Because religious orders have more time to push canonization causes.

But the Martins are pretty famous! Hard to forget them!

This is the sort of thing that happens with press releases. People are enthusiastic, but they’re not thinking or looking stuff up.

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Blessed Benedict Daswa: Debunker of Witchcraft, Martyr

Here’s a story that’s sad and beautiful. It happened in Mbahe, Limpopo Province, South Africa. Mbahe is a village close to Kruger National Park, a place familiar to those of us who watch WildEarth.

On January 25, 1990, there was a bad thunderstorm, and lightning struck several thatched huts, burning them to the ground. The village council held a meeting, and the elders decided that the lightning strikes (and those previously suffered during a storm in November) had been caused by witchcraft. Therefore, they would collect a special tax from everyone in the village to pay for a witchfinder (“sangoma”).

At this point, the village council’s secretary arrived, who was also the principal of Nweli Primary School, and he objected. Strongly.

Tshimangadzo Samuel Benedict Daswa (born in 1946 in Mbahe) was a man of the Lemba people, and of the Bakali clan. The Lemba followed Jewish practices and ate kosher, but also believed in blaming witches for all disasters. His family was happy and hospitable, with lots of kids. His chores included watching his dad’s small herd of cattle. While attending Mbahe Primary School, he lived with his uncle, Ralson Ramudzuli Matshili, who was the principal and lived in town. Matshili was Catholic. Daswa admired Catholicism and his uncle’s Catholic friends, and began to take catechism classes. He was baptized at the age of 17, in 1963, at Malavuwe village; and his catechist, Benedict Shadrack Risimati, was his sponsor.

Then his father died young from an accident, and so he worked and supported his siblings until they were grown up. (Although his mom also started a business, brewing traditional beer!) He got a job in Sibasa with a Christian employer — but then, his new boss told him that he’d have to stop being Catholic and join his boss’ church. Daswa quit, and started looking for another job.

He moved away, worked his way through college, and became a teacher, graduating in 1973. He married in 1974 with Shadi Eveline Monyai, and they had seven kids at the time of his death. (She died in 2008, but she lived through all this, poor lady.) He was considered unusual for a man, particularly one of high status, because he helped with “women’s work.” He cooked and did laundry at the river. He particularly insisted on doing the hard work of carrying water from the river, and the finicky work of ironing his own shirts!

He worked as both a secular teacher at Nweli School and a religious catechist, eventually helping build Nweli Church (aka the Church of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin Mary). The pilgrimage booklet says that all the decorative stones were transported from the Mutshundudi River in the back of Daswa’s pickup truck, back in 1984. His wife testified that he’d told her that he didn’t feel like he could build them a house and move into it, until the Lord’s house had been finished.

He became a byword for honesty and determination. In 1977, he had become his school’s principal. (Nweli was a village right next to Mbahe, with Shangaan tribespeople, many of whom were Catholic. His catechist was a Shangaan man from Nweli.) He was the first to arrive and the last to leave, and he kept everything organized. People knew that if kids didn’t show up for school, he’d come looking for them; and he persuaded parents to let their girls finish school instead of marrying them off first. Both as a subordinate and as the guy in charge, he encouraged working together and helping each other. He loved sports, teaching and playing field hockey, volleyball, and soccer, and starting the local Mbahe Eleven Computers soccer team.

But he was also stubborn in another way. When his amateur soccer teammates decided to use “muti” (medicine, magic) to try to defeat other teams, he ended up leaving the team and starting his own rival team: the Mbahe Freedom Rebels. He also strongly discouraged witchcraft beliefs, as well as the burning and killing of suspected witches.

So yeah… it’s probable that the elders were trying to make their decision before Daswa got there, if you ask me.

When Daswa heard about the witchfinder plan, he patiently explained that lightning was a natural phenomenon, and rejected witches as an explanation. He explained the science. His argument was overridden. He then announced that he wasn’t paying any 5 rand fee, because as a Catholic, he was forbidden to mess with any of this magical stuff. Naturally the elders weren’t thrilled to be told that hiring a sangoma was also dealing with magic!

A lot of grumbling ensued about his lack of public-spiritedness, and his lack of support for traditional folkways like burning witches. He was a stumbling block, keeping them from dealing with the witches. Maybe he was a witch!

And so, on February 2, 1990, his neighbors and former students conspired to ambush his car and kill him, right next to the soccer field, in the traditional method of a witch hunt. Returning home, he found his road blocked by a fallen tree. When he honked to get help from villagers, a mob of men swarmed out of the roadside bushes and started to stone him. He ran to a shebeen selling beer, but his mother’s business colleague told him to get out. He ran to a nearby woman’s house and hid, but the mob threatened her life and she told them where he was. Members of the mob dragged Daswa out of the house. One of them assured him that he’d be okay, and one point the mob kept a guy with a knobkerrie, a traditional war weapon, from hitting Daswa. But as he prayed, “God, into Your hands receive my spirit,” apparently some of the mob got set off and started beating him up more. In the confusion, the knobkerrie guy came up behind Daswa and clubbed him over the head. That’s what killed him. He was 43.

At which point, the mob boiled some water and poured it into his ears and nose, to make sure he was really dead.

After the mob left, the woman got in touch with one of Daswa’s brothers, who sat with the body until it could be removed to Daswa’s house. He received a Catholic funeral at Nweli Church, and the priests wore red vestments because they knew he was a martyr. In the wake of his death, his mother converted to Catholicism as well. (She’d been going to Mass with the family for years.) Later in 1990, his wife Eveline gave birth to a posthumous child, Ndifhedzo Benedicta Daswa.

The parishioners of Nweli Church went to his grave every year on the Sunday closest to All Saints’ Day, asking for his prayers.

Feeling strongly about this whole incident and taking notice of the local private devotion to him, the diocese of Tzaneen submitted his cause to Rome in 2008. His martyrdom status was accepted quickly, in 2013, and he was beatified in 2015. Thirty thousand people attended his beatification in Tshitanini. His parish has his body in a vault, and they are working on building a shrine. (In Tshitanini, because the local tribe made the land available.)

To avoid conflicting with the Feast of the Presentation/Candlemas, and hence not giving him his due (especially given that it’s a Marian feast and he was from a Marian parish), Bl. Benedict Daswa’s local feastday is celebrated on February 1. He’s a good feastday neighbor to our St. Brigit! He was a layman, a father, a good son, a student, a true educator, and a martyr for Truth Himself. He is called an “Apostle of Life,” because he worked to lead people to a fuller life, without enslavement to the occult and ritual murder. He also makes a good intercessor for South Africa, which is having plenty of problems.

Blessed Benedict Daswa, in this time of craziness and unreason, pray for us!

Pilgrimage tour booklet about Bl. Benedict Daswa. PDF. Lots of interesting info, like his mom being a brewster!

Testimony and memories of him by his eldest daughter, Helen. She worked in the UK, and ended up telling her dad’s story to a co-worker. The guy couldn’t get it. “Why didn’t he just pay the five rand?” Argggh.

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Mary Among the Evangelists

Last night I started reading an interesting book called The Definitiive Guide for Solving Biblical Questions about Mary: Mary Among the Evangelists, by the Rev. Dr. Christiaan Kappes and William Albrecht.

This is a great book for my current interests, because it deals particularly with Gospel information about Jesus, His mom, His foster-father, and the whole situation with His disciples and His extended family. It turns out that the literary structures used by the Evangelists, and the parallel verses and Greek usages in the Septuagint, provide a lot of additional story that is “left out” in most English translations.

Some of it is even present in the original Hebrew of the Old Testament, but still gets ignored, or translated in a non-transparent way. For example, in the story of Jephthah and his daughter, the text doesn’t say “she was a virgin” as it is often translated. The Hebrew says, “she did not know man,” and then the Greek uses “ouk egno andra,” which is the same thing but in the aorist tense. So even though it’s an unusual Hebrew phrase, it does show up in the Bible elsewhere. Even without being native Hebrew or Aramaic speakers, we are supposed to be thinking about Jephthah’s daughter… especially since in the Greek and Hebrew both, Jephthah’s daughter tells her dad, “Let this thing be done to me according to your word.”

Okay, according to your “rhema” in Luke and according to your “logon” in our Septuagint, and according to your “dabar” in Hebrew; but using synonyms is still saying the same thing — especially since Mary’s doing some wordplay, using the same “rhema” that Gabriel just used.

It’s kind of a witty thing for Mary to say, especially to cap the words of an angel — but it comes with a heavy implication that she’s scared as heck. I mean, Jephthah’s daughter was assenting to being killed. And then what does Mary do? She goes up to the hills for a few months and spends time with another woman before coming back home, just like Jephthah’s daughter went to the mountain with her friends for a couple months before reporting home to become a human sacrifice. I mean, yes, Luke is also using Ark of the Covenant language, but the rest of the implications are freaking dark. So the Magnificat is even more amazing in context — Mary is not mourning herself, but is praising God.

The other interesting bit is that, when Gabriel says “rhema,” the primary meaning is “word, thing said,” but the extended sense is “things that happen, factual occurrences.” So he does simultaneously say, “For all things are possible with God” and “For every word will be possible with God.”

So of course, Gabriel is saying “What I’ve just said to you, which comes straight from God, will come true.” But he’s also talking to a girl, who by all tradition and implication of what she just said, is a vowed virgin. Her vow is also a “rhema,” just as Jephthah’s vow was a “logon.” So Gabriel is telling Mary that her spoken vow will not be disregarded; again, God shows His lovingkindness and courtesy. “For with God, every word is not impossible.”

The Bible is deep stuff. You can’t say that too often.

PS – This also makes Jephthah’s daughter the exact female parallel to Abraham’s son Isaac, by making Mary the New Jephthah’s Daughter against Jesus being the New Isaac. She is the ewe lamb who does her part, even though her Son is the True Lamb of God. This time it’s the daughter who is spared and the Son Who dies. Last time, the women mourned Jephthah’s daughter every year; this time, Mary is “blessed among women” and “all generations shall call me blessed.”

Another interesting bit is that Jewish tradition is adamant that Jephthah should have tried harder to get out of his vow, by asking around, and by determining that it was not fitting to sacrifice a human, willing or not. (The Book of Judges is all about people doing “what seemed right in their eyes,” and mostly doing sinful things because of it.) God doesn’t want us to be stubborn and keep bad vows, or abet others in toxic pigheadedness. So if God says through Gabriel that Mary’s vow is good, and that her parents and Joseph letting her keep it was good, that means that Mary as antitype improves on Jephthah’s daughter as type. She offered herself up in a fitting way, which is part of why it was fitting for God to take her up on it, and offer her an even more important depth of offering.

(There’s also a minority interpretation that Jephthah’s daughter remained alive and was sent to serve God at the Tabernacle, having been vowed a virgin by her dad instead of by herself. Which would also be relevant to Mary.)

Either way, Mary is obedient and responsive to God… but she’s also got that dark Jewish sense of humor. Obediently snarky.

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St. Marisol?

This is a common Spanish name that doesn’t get much pop culture explanation. It’s really “Maria Soledad,” a name honoring the “Virgen de la Soledad,” the “Virgin of Solitude” or “of Loneliness.” This is a title for Mary as she was on Holy Saturday, mourning her Son. One of the interesting Spanish features is that they show Mary wearing a rosary with a prominent cross, so that the rosary draws attention to her long-empty belly. She is alone.

(Our Lady of Sorrows is the more common title in non-Hispanic countries. That’s where the name “Dolores” comes from.)

There’s a lot of devotion to Mary under the title of “Soledad,” especially in France and Spain, and in Mexico. It was associated closely with the women of the royal families, who often survived their sons and husbands. In Madrid, there’s also a miraculous painting on cloth of this version of Our Lady, “la Virgen de la Paloma.”

The Paloma Virgin is a neighborhood miracle. In 1787, some kids found the discarded painting (which is a little smaller than a paperback book) and started tossing it around. One of the neighbor ladies on Paloma St., Isabela Tintero, was scandalized and confiscated the little painting. She took it home, cleaned it, got it framed, and put it on her front door. Then she started using it as her prayer station for saying the Rosary, and other neighbors did too.

And then people’s prayers started getting granted.

Word of the miracles got around, and the little side street got flooded with people praying. Mrs. Tintero gave up her house to be an unofficial chapel for the painting, but they still couldn’t fit everyone into the house. The locals built a real chapel. They founded a big festival on August 15, along with the Feast of the Assumption. There was a famous operetta/zarzuela using the festival as a backdrop. And so on. She is the patron saint of Madrid’s firefighters as well.

But it’s not all funsies, being a shrine. The parish suffered five martyrdoms during the Spanish Civil War, which are currently part of a new sainthood cause. All the martyrs were killed for being part of Catholic Action, a club for supporting Catholic identity and teaching, or the Asociacion Catolica de Propagandistas, an apologetics and teaching club. There were two priests: the Servants of God Fr. Jose Bermudez Tome and Fr. Andres Rodriguez Perdiguero; and three lay members of Catholic Action: Marcelino Panizo Celorio, Marcelino Panizo Rodriguez, and Fernando Estevanez Teran.

Yesterday, tragically, there was some kind of explosion at an adjoining Caritas home for elderly people and for visiting priests, on ground owned by the parish. Four people were killed: two still-unidentified passersby in the street, a 35 year old parishioner named David Santos who leaves behind a wife and four kids, and a 36 year old priest, Fr. Ruben Perez Ayala, the parochial vicar, who had only been ordained for a year. Debris hit the roof of the church and the back courtyard, but it’s otherwise okay. None of the old people were killed. They think it was a gas explosion. Please pray for all the dead and for their families.

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St. Taylor?

For all you young men, young ladies, Taylor Swift, and Taylor Marshall — there’s Blessed Hugh Taylor, martyr.

In fact, he was the first person martyred by Bad Queen Bess under the law naming all priests as traitors, as opposed to claiming that specific priests had done specific non-priest traitorous things. We don’t know much about him, but we know he came from Durham, snuck out of England, studied at Rheims, and became a missionary priest. He was caught or betrayed soon after re-entering England. Then he was hung, drawn, and quartered on November 26, 1585, in the city of York. (Blessed Marmaduke Bowes died on the same day.)

But there’s another Hugh Taylor, who is probably a saint, but who doesn’t seem to have had any cause. This Hugh Taylor was a Carthusian monk who entered the London Charterhouse in 1518. He was a “Conversus” lay brother who did the work to help the other monks live their life of strict prayer and silence, as hermits within a monastery. But he was known to be not only charitable, but also a man whose prayers were answered favorably by the Lord, who had visions and dreams, who made true prophecies, and who was consulted by everyone in need, including people who didn’t like him.

One day Brother Hugh was in his room when Jesus came to talk to him, in a full apparition. They talked and talked, and then Hugh remembered that he was supposed to meet one of the other monks in the workroom, and help him with a project. So Hugh begged Our Lord to excuse him until he could come back, and went and kept his promise.

And when he came back to his room, Jesus was there, and told him how pleased He was that Hugh had gone to help his brother — more pleased than He had been with anything Hugh had done before.

Brother Hugh Taylor died on September 30, 1575. Many of his Carthusian brothers would go on to martyrdom, including the Prior, St. John Houghton.

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The Deal with St. Francis Borgia

Finally I got some good gen on St. Francis Borgia, the good guy of the Borgia family. He’s an interesting figure, but a lot of Catholic books don’t really tell you much about him.

First thing: He was from the Borgia family (Borja in Spanish), and he was a great-grandson of Bad Pope Alexander VI. But frankly, the rest of his family on the Spanish side was no great shakes, either — illegitimate sons of kings getting appointed to be bishops of Zaragoza, getting quietly allowed to have pseudo-wives and tons of illegitimate kids in exchange for not messing with Spain and Portugal’s ridiculously tangled successions, and then having to get stuck into royal power as regents for legitimate heirs. (Yes, yes, they were in a big war against Muslims, but that’s no excuse.)

But Francis was a good kid, and the kings of Spain had finally decided it was more appropriate to give his family a dukedom than all these bishoprics. (His paternal granddad and grandma may have come from bad homes, but they made a good one and set a good example.) So all he had to do was have a good career at court, marry a good woman, succeed to his father’s duchy of Gandia, and enjoy his nice Valencian town and his totally legitimate kids.

Step One worked out fine. He was well-regarded at the Spanish court. The empress regent, Isabella of Portugal, set him up in 1529 with her close friend and chief lady-in-waiting, Leonor de Castro Mello y Menezes, the daughter of the Portuguese King Manuel I’s captain-general of Africa. (He was nineteen, she was seventeen.) She was known for being unpretentious, pious, and humble, despite her high birth; and like St. Catherine of Siena, she made it her practice to get her prayers done mentally during her work.

The marriage was suggested by the queen, agreed to by Francis and Leonor, and then proposed by way of a letter from the king to the Duke of Gandia. But then it almost collapsed, because the Duke said he was looking for a Spanish princess for his boy, and he had reason. So the Duke got a lot of royal concessions, the barony of Llombay became a marquisate, the Spanish succession got a little less tangled, and young love ensued.

They had eight kids, and everything was great. Francis was made Chief Equerry to the Empress, and he got to use his famous horse knowledge and riding skills for his work.

He was also a pretty darned good amateur musician and composer, btw. In fact, he was so good that he could have been a professional; and he wrote a lot of sacred music that was well-regarded. Many of his motets, hymn tunes, and sequences are still around. He was also famed for falconry. (He found hunting to be a very philosophical and edifying pursuit, and he thought you could learn a lot about life from dogs and falcons.) Unlike most of the court, he sensibly refused to gamble, saying that he feared to lose four things: time, money, piety, and peace of mind.

He was strict but kind to his family and his servants and knights. He paid attention and gave praise when his kids did well. He took his marriage seriously, and his valet later testified that even before marriage, he wore a hairshirt any time that he thought he might be tempted at a party or other social occasion. (And boy, isn’t that a reflection on the Spanish court.)

He didn’t let anything slide in his household, and required daily prayer and Mass; and he always stopped to inspect the male servant quarters before going to bed, to make sure nobody was up to no good. (There’s another reflection on the Spanish court.) But he also paid well, minded his manners even to servants, and gave lots of bonuses for good service. People either left his service quickly or stayed for years. His wife and he both delighted in finding talented, trustworthy people without patrons, and getting them good posts; and in tactfully helping people in need, including those who had run into trouble through casual sex. He gave away a purse of alms every day. But he also found time to study higher math and military science, and to serve his lords in political matters. He displayed personal courage in war, as well as quick, correct, and decisive judgment.

Also, he was darned good-looking, rich, smart, popular, kindly, and had a happy marriage. What more could a man want from life?

During service in Africa when he was lent out to one of the princes of Portugal, Francis caught malaria and almost died. He used his many months of convalescence in the country to study the Bible and the saints. He went back to war in 1536 when Charles V invaded Provence, and again distinguished himself. But he also suffered the death of one of his best friends, the poet Garcilaso de la Vega, who died of concussion after leading an assault by siege ladder.

Not long after, Francis’ paternal grandmother died. She had joined the Poor Clares not long after Francis’ birth, where she lived unassumingly but did tons of penances and became a mystic, though her sisters mostly didn’t know this. She died in great sanctity after suffering a horrible fever, coming out of it with a perfectly clear mind, and giving true prophecies about her friends and family. Both the nuns and many of their visitors at the funeral heard angels singing from time to time, for days afterward.

(One of her daughters, Frances, was also a Poor Clare, and her granddaughter Dorotea (one of St. Francis’ kids) soon joined the order.)

On May 1, 1539, Isabella of Portugal died in Toledo at the age of 36. Francis Borgia organized and ran the procession that escorted her coffin to the royal tomb in Granada. Isabella was considered one of Europe’s most beautiful women (in an extended family that included some really unattractive and even deformed people). She was the grandchild of Ferdinand and Isabella, and niece to Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England, and Isabel of Asturias, Queen of Portugal (also her dad’s first wife – not kidding about that royal family).

According to Francis, the death of his wife’s friend (and his friend and benefactor at court) made a big change in him. He felt that her death was the occasion of his deepest conversion of heart, and he remembered and prayed for her every year in his diary “for what the Lord worked in me by her death.” He was saddened by seeing her face so decomposed at her burial that he could not really swear it was her beautiful self, and he told his diary that he could never again serve any lord who could die. (There are some famous historical paintings of this moment.)

But then Francis succeeded to the dukedom of Gandia while trying to negotiate a marriage between the Spanish and Portuguese courts, to unify the countries. Negotiations collapsed and he was blamed. He left court, occupied himself with his lands and family, and started to study religion more seriously on the side. He and his wife helped support the big Hieronymite monastery of San Jeroni de Cotalba near Gandia. They also took an interest in the Jesuits. He was a good duke to his subjects, and interested in developing his towns. He even put things in train to found a college in Gandia for his Jesuit friends.

And this is when his life abruptly changed.

In 1546, Leonor died while trying to rest and recover at Cotalba. Francis was heartbroken. He found new meaning in his love of God, and decided that it was time to turn his back on worldly things and start working harder for God. With royal permission, he gave his duchy to his sixteen-year-old son, and joined the Jesuits.

St. Ignatius of Loyola was still alive. He apparently knew or knew about Borgia, and he ended up meeting with him. Like the commander of any early modern army, he was delighted to grab a general- or colonel-level recruit for his company, already trained and ready to go. So obviously the thing to do was to process his paperwork and put him in charge of something.

Unfortunately this was not obvious to a lot of Jesuits. He was not trained by lots of boot camp time with us! How can he understand the spirit of the order if we don’t make him go through seven zillion years of training? Isn’t this favoritism? When the local university in Gandia granted their duke a doctorate of theology in three months, the whining increased. (Even though Borgia was known to be very learned, and had been studying for years on the side, as well as founding the college.)

Of course, he was an older man with a closer expiration date, and so it only made sense to Loyola to put him to work right away. As it was, he only gave the Jesuits 26 more years. And Loyola himself was very aware of having started out the Jesuits as the old guy, playing catch up. Why would he make life harder for someone in the same position?

There was more trouble. Various popes thought Borgia would make a great bishop or cardinal, as well as drawing the Jesuits into a traditional pattern of big religious orders providing bishops. Loyola wanted to avoid that, and keep the Jesuits mobile. There was also a heretical book that came out in Spain under the duke’s now-trendy name, but which actually was by an unknown author who had grabbed a short essay by the duke and put a bunch of crazy stuff on top of it.

So for a while, Loyola had Borgia hiding out in a small Jesuit group in his own Basque stomping grounds. Borgia got a little bit hazed by doing scutwork, and by being told to apologize for his clumsiness in playing waiter at the refectory. But Borgia put up with it cheerfully, and had probably had it worse as a royal page or a young knight.

And then, just to make things crazier, Loyola appointed Borgia to be some kind of roaming troubleshooter, with authority separate from various Jesuit superiors. He didn’t tell the Jesuit superiors about this. So of course people were all whiny about him being disobedient or uppity, and about him having been assigned a separate staff full of other Jesuits.

In 1554, Borgia was made commissary-general in Spain for the Jesuits, and founded a dozen colleges to deal with Jesuit educational needs. In 1556, he was put in charge of the Jesuit missions in the East and West Indies, in his copious spare time.

Things eventually settled down a bit, and then he was elected the third superior general of the whole Society of Jesus in 1565, for the last seven years of his life. And he changed things, like giving people a general idea of how Jesuits should dress instead of having no particular habit. He didn’t actually impose a habit, mind you, but it still didn’t go over well. He also had Jesuits living in houses start saying the Office in the morning, but only if it didn’t interfere with other assignments. Since St. Ignatius de Loyola had deliberately not imposed the Office on his people, this caused bad feeling, even though it wasn’t mandatory and was in response to a papal request.

The other factor was that there was a big stink in the 1920’s when a German Jesuit wrote a hostile-ish biography of Borgia. His idea was that Borgia didn’t understand Loyola and the Society, and so that everything he had done was not really Jesuit, and that he had helped ruin everything. The bio came out at the same time that the Jesuits had a really strict superior general, and a big stink ensued which ended in the biographer leaving the Jesuits. He came back on his deathbed in 1976. This was also part of why some Jesuits were all about “Pedro Arrupe becoming superior general saved the order!” So this also damped some of the devotional enthusiasm to him that you would otherwise expect.

Nowadays, the way Loyola had Borgia avoid becoming a cardinal or bishop is bound to be a litte tad bit inconvenient… when we have a Jesuit bishop and cardinal who has become a Jesuit pope…. So yeah, there’s that too. But religious orders are allowed to change if they want; it’s not like Loyola was God Himself. The Franciscans and Dominicans got their members grabbed for bishops, too, and within the first couple “generations” of members. St. Albert the Great, for example.

(And if you really want to support a religious order that never has let its members become bishops or popes… well, that’s every female religious order, heh heh.)

St. Francis Borgia died at midnight on Sept. 30, 1572, so his feastday was originally on Sept. 30. But after Vatican II it was moved to October 10 — today!

So happy St. Borgia Day!

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St. Marmaduke?

Obviously I am still in turmoil about the revelations on the last post, so I’m going to write about something funny that came up.

One of the more puzzling English names is “Marmaduke.” It starts showing up in Northumberland in the 1400’s, and then we get several at once. It didn’t die out during the Protestant Reformation (although one Royalist family, with Marmadukes already in it, changed it to the baptismal name of “Duke,” as part of the fashion trend of naming Royalist kids things like Squire and Admiral). It sounds like it could be German, but it’s not German. Nope.

Give up? It’s Welsh. Specifically, it’s Mawr Madog, aka Big Madoc. There are a whole bunch of similar Welsh names (Cadoc, Gorbadoc, etc.), and the last syllable gets all different vowels at different times and places. So it’s not surprising that the English mangled it to their liking! “Madoc” means something like “lucky” or “having good fortune and being charitable.” (I don’t have good sources on this.)

St. Madoc was a son of the combative King Sawyl Penuchel (aka Samuel the Arrogant, who lost his kingdom to the Saxons, and who got his warband drowned in a marsh after attacking St. Cadoc’s monastery). He’s called Madog Ailither, meaning Madoc the Pilgrim, because he traveled to Ireland to visit all the famous monasteries, came back to Wales, and was eventually buried in Ireland.

St. Madoc’s brother was St. Santan, who also founded lots of churches and monasteries, and who wound up a bishop in Ireland.

The most famous Madoc is Prince Madoc, son of King Owain Gwynedd, who allegedly ran off to America with a bunch of settlers. There’s also the legendary Madoc ap Uthyr, brother of King Arthur, whose son Eliwlod could turn into an eagle and was one of the Three Goldentongued Knights of Britain.

But it’s possible that all these Northern English kids were being named for a specific historical Madog Mawr — Madog of Cilsant, who married Sioned/Jonet verch Gruffyd. (Cilsant/St. Clears doesn’t seem to have had a lot of Northumberland connections, though.) I also notice that a lot of early Marmadukes have Percy connections, and they had Welsh connections in their family.

But the earliest Marmaduke seems to be Marmaduke Darell of Sessay, Thirsk, whose son and grandson were named Marmaduke too. His wife’s name was Aseria, which could be some Welsh name, and her dad could have been the Madoc in question.

The surname Maddox, Maddocks, Maddock means something like “descended from Madoc.” You see a lot of Welsh surnames using this format: Evans, Reynolds, Jones, Philips, etc.

So Marmaduke the Great Dane is actually showing his allegiance to a Welsh saint.

UPDATE: But wait, there’s more! Blessed Marmaduke Bowes was a married layman who was martyred at York on November 26, 1585. (Blessed Fr. Hugh Taylor was martyred on the same day.) His crime was sheltering priests, and both he and his wife were arrested for it, on the testimony of a man whom they had brought into their home as a tutor for their children. He was the first person executed under the new law that made helping priests a felony. His wife was released from prison. We don’t know what happened to her and the kids.

Blessed Marmaduke had Catholic beliefs, but he had “conformed” to the established state church, meekly attending rather than being a bold recusant. He raised his kids to be Catholic, which was how the tutor found out something of what was going on. Bowes lived a double life. But after his arrest, he proclaimed his Catholic faith boldly, and managed to confess his sketchy actions and to get fully reconciled to the Church.

So that’s Blessed Marmaduke for you.

If you like this name, you could always name your boy Madoc and then call him Marmaduke as a nickname. “Badi” was also a medieval nickname for Madoc.

Early Breton and Welsh names are similar, since a lot of Celtic Britons fled the island and settled in Brittany, “Little Britain.” So Madoc is a Breton boy’s name, and there’s also a Breton girl’s name, Madouc.

There’s also an Irish/Scottish group of names that sound similar. St. Aodh/Aedan/Aidan of Ferns was one of the many Irish saints who picked up possessives and diminutives from their friends, teachers, or devotees. So he could have been Mo-Aodh or Mo-Aidan, Maidan/Moidan, but they went further and spun out his name with -og (young, or just a noun diminutive). So he’s St. Maedog or Maedoc, which (depending on Gaelic dialect) is pronounced “Mogue.”

And a lot of the time, the functional equivalent name for Sassenach or baptismal fonts was Moses. So if you see a Moses in Ireland, he’s probably a Maedoc/Maedog. (But not a Madoc/Madog/Marmaduke.)

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St. Blythe?

Yes!! Yes, it’s a real saint’s name! Hahahahahah! I am really delighted to find this out!

St. Blitha of Martham (also known as St. Blyth, Blythe, or Blida) was a laywoman in East Anglia. She was a kinswoman of the illfated King of the English, Aethelred the Unready, and of his son, King Edmund Ironside. She was married to a wealthy nobleman named Benedict. He had at least one son, St. Walstan, who moved to Taverham at the age of twelve and became an ordinary farm laborer, albeit a pious one.

Benedict and Blitha seem to have lived in either Blythburgh, Suffolk (which may have been her property, or may have changed its name in her honor) or in Bawburgh, Norfolk. But at the time of her death, after Benedict died, she was living in Martham, which is a lot further inland and somewhat closer to Taverham. A chapel was built in her honor in Martham.

The Old English word “blithe” or “blythe” meant friendly, agreeable, cheerful, kind, merciful, pleasing, gentle, pretty — basically, a lot of pleasant qualities. Its ultimate root means something like “shining.” It’s a great name — and now we know it’s a saint’s name! Great stuff!

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Forgotten Titles: Mary of the Pregnant Women, and Mary of the Slapped Face

I was browsing around some webpages about Old St. Peter’s in Rome, and found out that there used to be a big side altar, right next to the nave’s entrance doors, which was dedicated to S. Maria Praegnantium. (Handy if you were really big and needed to pray.)

The altar included an old picture of the Virgin Mary holding Barely Toddler Jesus. Mary has one arm curled protectively around her Son, Who is standing up and blessing the onlookers. With the other hand, she holds a gauze veil across His privates, while highlighting His bellybutton to prove that He was born of her. Otherwise, He’s a totally naked little boy, showing that He is true man as well as true God.

Today, there’s a whole chapel dedicated to her, under the name of the Madonna delle Partorienti (My Lady of the Women Giving Birth), and it’s in a place of honor. But here’s the catch: it’s downstairs in the crypt, under St. Peter’s. So maybe there’s an elevator now, but there didn’t use to be. For a shrine for pregnant women. (Facepalm. Men. Usually that’s not the problem, but here, it pretty clearly is.)

There’s also a chapel for another old medieval icon of Mary, which was also moved from Old St. Peter’s. S. Maria della Bocciata, or the Madonna della Bocciata (of the Slap, or of the Rejection) , was a wall fresco of Mary holding Baby Jesus, which was in the portico between the Ravenna Door and the Door of the Dead. Jesus is turned away from His mother and is blessing the onlooker below. But Mary has an odd-looking face, which some see as swollen, and her cheek has a dark spot that looks like a big bruise.

It’s a miraculous picture, because apparently it used to look normal, and it was painted in the 1200’s. It used to be called “S. Maria in columna,” Mary on the pillar. (Probably a picture of the Spanish apparition of Mary, “Our Lady of the Pillar,” which has Baby Jesus sit-standing against Mary’s shoulder. Her feast day is October 12, which is also Columbus Day from Columbus’ first landing in the Americas. Columba, Columna. Horrible pun.)

But one day in 1440, a drunken soldier, who had just lost a game of bowls, had a tantrum and threw one of the little balls or rocks that they were using for the game, and hit Mary’s picture right in the face. Drops of blood fell from her painted cheek and stained the floor; and ever since then, the picture has borne the bruise damage as a rebuke to those who disrespect the Blessed Mother. (And I’m sure we remember the similar thing that happened to the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa.)

So of course the picture was removed from the wall before the old basilica was demolished, and now it also has its own home, down in the crypt. The two bloodstained paving stones sit behind grates on either side of the picture, and you’re meant to reach through the grates and touch them.

Unfortunately, this is another shrine that used to be a lot easier to visit, back when it was in the portico! But in this case, people actually got more attached to “the Rejected Madonna” after it was moved several times during all the building and renovation. So you never know.

Here’s a PDF from the Knights of Columbus, who funded the restoration of various crypt chapels, including these two. There are nice photos of the two pictures.

Many fragments and reproductions of Old St. Peter’s stuff live in the crypts. On the right hand wall of the Rejected Madonna’s chapel is an old inscription from the “sacellum” or “oratory” of the saints, which was created by Pope St. Gregory III, and dedicated at the opening of an anti-iconoclast synod in Rome on November 1, 731. To make his point stronger, the pope changed the Roman date of All Saints’ Day from May 13th to November 1, thus creating Halloween.

So the first Halloween decoration ever is sitting under St. Peter’s, in the Chapel of the Madonna della Bocciata!! Being all holy and historical and stuff!*

A webpage for the Chapel of the Madonna della Bocciata. Includes some nice big pictures. The remains of Cardinal Peran are back in his country now.

A webpage for the Chapel of the Madonna delle Partorienti.

Today is Mary’s birthday (September 8, feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary). The eve of the feast was associated by St. Brigid of Sweden with a devotion to St. Anne and the Virgin Mary, praying for pregnant women by starting a simple novena of nine Hail Marys a day, or even nine Hail Marys per month of pregnancy (which she received in an vision from Mary). St. Anna Maria Emmerich received a similar vision, where Mary asked pregnant women to say nine Hail Marys at noon on September 8, and then to continue saying nine at noon for nine days.

(But any time during the day is fine – it’s noon somewhere. Noon was associated with saying the Angelus and hearing the Angelus bells ring, so Mary was trying to make it easy.)

*There are two known inscriptions. One is all about the guys who witnessed the synod and the pope being happy to praise the Lord (which is the one in the chapel), and the other is all “anathema” and “interdict” to violators of the synod’s teaching. Which would be Emperor Leo III.

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St. Regis?

I’ve wondered about this name before, and why such a Catholic Catholic as Regis Philbin would have some weird name like that. But since he passed away this week, I finally got around to looking it up.

If you look at it, it looks like it would be from “regis,” the genitive case of Latin “rex,” king. So this would be a kid who belongs to Christ the King.

But no! Regis was named by his dad for Regis High School, a free-tuition Catholic boys high school in Manhattan, run by Jesuits and founded on the big honking money of one Julia M. Grant, the widow of Mayor Hugh J. Grant. His dad was accepted into the school in the 1920’s, but was expelled in his sophomore year for fighting. With a teacher. All the same, Regis’ dad got a good education there, and was grateful and sorry afterward. Hence the name.

But who was the high school named for? (Yes, we will now expose my lack of Jesuit knowledge.)

St. Jean-Francois Regis, a Jesuit priest, worked as a missionary/revival preacher in France in the 1600’s. Before he joined the Jesuits, he was a shy kid of a merchant turned minor nobility, deathly afraid of displeasing his parents and teachers. He learned voraciously and kept his head in his books. But as a Jesuit, his fervent love of Jesus led him to start preaching to everybody, everywhere, in a simple way that came straight from the heart.

He was made a priest early, and immediately began to serve in areas stricken by bubonic plague. Then the next year he was assigned to spread the Gospel, first by working with his community in Montpellier, and then by being sent out on his own.

He walked from town to town, preached ex tempore, heard Confession in the morning, visited hospitals and prisons in the afternoon, and relied on the hospitality of locals on his missionary journeys. He often lived off apples and black bread. He spent much of his time preaching to Protestants, but he also was out to help Catholics be saved.

Along the way, he provided help for the desperate people he met, mostly by helping them get job training and learn entrepreneurship (such as in the lucrative lacemaking industry). He found safe housing for orphans and poor women, including ex-prostitutes. But since he didn’t have a parish or funding, he had to persuade members of each community to do this stuff on their own, and to leave them the job of running it. (So in other words, he was a _real_ community organizer, unlike most people with that name.)

If you joined one of his confraternities for Eucharistic adoration and you had money, he would often send you a note asking for help for a specific person, right down to the number of sous, or send you the person to feed, as his special gift to you! But it worked.

As he helped prostitutes get out of their bad situations, he was often threatened by armed pimps and angry exes. By showing no fear, and by speaking clearly about their own situation, he got them to drop their weapons and leave him (and the women) alone.

All that made him sad was opposition from supposedly good people, and the fact that his superiors refused to let him go to Canada and work for Jesus there.

He seemed tireless. But like many pre-modern priests, he died of exhaustion and a lung sickness that wouldn’t go away, at the age of 43. He literally died on the job in the confessional in the tiny mountain town of La Louvesc, asking Jesus to receive his soul, on December 31, 1640.

After his death, the French formed many “Regis Societies” in his honor, dedicated to helping the poor and the unemployed, as well as educating people in rural areas. He was canonized in 1737, and is often called “St. Regis” for short. St. Jean Vianney gave all the credit for the success of his own parish mission to the intercession of St. Jean-Francois Regis. There is a miraculous spring in La Louvesc near the site of his death, where many people find healing. And the order of the Cenacle Sisters was originally founded in his honor.

So yes! It’s a very Catholic name!

There’s also a St. Jean-Francois-Regis Clet, who was a Vincentian nicknamed “the walking library.” After working as a professor and seminary director, he saw all his work destroyed in the French Revolution, and his community disbanded.

So he went to China to serve as a missionary, at the age of 43. He worked in China for 28 years, but never mastered any of the languages to the point where he felt fluent. Still, he persevered in a mission territory that stretched over 270,000 square miles. In 1811, the Vincentians were falsely accused of inciting rebellion, and they had to live on the run. But he managed, until he was betrayed to the authorities on June 16, 1819, and executed as a traitor on Chinese New Year — Feb. 17, 1820 — at the age of 72. (Two hundred years ago, this year.)

He was tied onto a cross, and then strangled slowly… in Wuchang (then Frankified as Vu-tsheng-fu or Ou-tchang-fou)… which is now merged with Hankou and Hanyang, and called Wuhan, China.

(“Hopei Province” is now spelled “Hubei.” He also worked in Hunan.)

He was buried on Red Mountain in China; but eventually had his remains translated to the Vincentian motherhouse in France, and then to St. Lazare’s in Paris. He was canonized on October 1, 2000. His day is February 18; and he is is one of the Martyr Saints of China.

St. Jean-Francois-Regis Clet, pray for us! And please pray for Wuhan!

These are really great models of the Christian life, and awesome patron saints for anyone bearing their name.

(Btw, many other Christians were executed in Wuchang in various persecutions, including another Vincentian priest, St. Jean-Gabriel Perboyre, on Sept. 11, 1840. He was big on spreading the Miraculous Medal, and was apparently the actual guy who prayed “May my hands be the hands of Jesus,” as part of a prayer for Christian tranformation to become more Christ-like. I’m going to look that up and report back.)

(Oh, and it was the Vincentians and many convert friends who were saved during the Boxer Rebellion, in the small village of Donglu, by an apparition of Our Lady in the sky. The Boxers shot at her, but obviously that didn’t work. Then a “fiery horseman” appeared in the sky on a heavenly horse, charged the Boxers, and drove them off. This was the first big apparition of Our Lady of China. The second big one was on May 23, 1995, also in Donglu, on the eve of the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, when she appeared with Baby Jesus in the sky, for 20 minutes, to tens of thousands of people. The church was banned the next day, and destroyed within the year by the Chinese government. To this day, thousands of soldiers are sent to Donglu in May every year to stop “illegal” pilgrimages, and yet the pilgrims sneak in and out.)

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St. Anastasia the “Deliverer from Potions,” Widow, Martyr

If you’re Latin/Roman Catholic, you probably know that Eucharistic Canon I, the traditional Roman Canon, includes prayers for the intercession of a ton of apostles and saints. If you go to a parish that mostly does the modern post-Vatican II Canons II or IV, you might not realize that some of these Eucharistic saints in the second part of the prayer are female.

In fact, they correspond exactly to the names of ancient Roman martyrs in prominent Roman churches. Most of the female saints are still popular today: Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, and Cecilia. But who is Anastasia?

She is kinda shadowy. Apparently she was the daughter of a Roman senator and vir illustris named Praetextatus, who moved his family to Sirmium in Pannonia. (Today it’s called Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia.) Sirmium was named one of the four capitols of the Empire under Diocletian’s tetrarchy system, and they were the lucky winner of Emperor Galerius.

(Boo! Hiss! Boo!)

So imagine how delightful it was to be a prominent senatorial Christian woman in Galerius’ homebase. (Her mom Fausta was a Christian, but died young. She also seems to have gotten some religious education from St. Chrysogonus of Aquileia, also big in the Canon.)

Anastasia was wealthy, young… and her dad was pagan and a politician. Yeah, she didn’t get the chance to become a vowed virgin, though maybe that wasn’t her vocation. She got married off to another patrician guy, Publius Patricius, who unfortunately seems to have been abusive, and who unusually would not let her leave the house.

Publius was named an ambassador to Persia and drowned in a shipwreck on the way, leaving behind no children. Anastasia decided to become a vowed widow, which wasn’t easy work as a young widow whom your dad could marry off legally. (But maybe Dad felt guilty about his first pick.) She devoted herself to charity, visiting the poor and those in prison. She knew first aid and simple nursing, but accounts differ as to her medical knowledge. They agree that she would clean and bind wounds with her own hands and pray for the sick.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Anastasia became known for her wonderworking, because when she prayed for someone who had taken pharmakoia, that person would get better. This continued even after her death, so she is still known today as the Pharmakolytria or Deliverer from Potions.

Pharmakoia is often translated as “harmful drugs” or “potions.” But what we are talking about in Greek is abortifacient chemicals.

So yeah, this is the lady who intercedes particularly for women who have accidentally poisoned themselves from their desperation to abort, or who have changed their minds and want to save their babies, as well as for victims of other kinds of poisonings and overdoses.

(Her prayers also freed people suffering from evil spirits and magic, according to accounts from Milan and Palermo; and she often cured the mentally ill at her shrines, although ouch, don’t be mentally ill in Constantinople.)

Anastasia’s miracleworking brought her to the attention of the Imperial government. After arrest, torture, and refusal to convert, she was burned to death in AD 290 or AD 304, depending on the source. She may have been killed on Christmas, on purpose, because that day seems to have started to be celebrated by Christians around that time. (Epiphany had been a great Christian feast from almost the beginning, as it has ties to some Jewish festivals that tie into Jesus’ sanctification of baptismal waters, and to the adoration of him by the Magi.

In better times, her relics were brought to Constantinople (at Christmas!) and installed at a new church. Relics were also brought to Rome and installed at their Church of the Resurrection (Anastasis – “standing up again, rising again”). Both churches became known as dedicated to St. Anastasia, and attracted healing pilgrimages. The relics of her head and one of her hands were removed from Constantinople and currently reside in Halidiki, Greece, near Mt. Athos, at a monastery named for her. She also has relics on the island of Palmaria, near Aquileia.

On the Western side of things, her feast is December 25 (because of the translation of her relics to Constantinople for sure, and maybe because of her martyrdom date), and it’s December 22 on the Byzantine side (January 4 on the Gregorian calendar). Icons usually show her carrying a medicine jug.

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St. Hermione the Unmercenary Physician

I got into a search engine/linkfest today… And it turns out that Hermione, daughter of Menelaus and Helen, and wife of both Neoptolemus and Orestes (doom, doom, doom-doom), was not the only famous Hermione of the ancient world.

As we all know, St. Philip the Deacon had four daughters who were all prophetesses in the Church. But on the Eastern side of things, a lot of folks who get mentioned in passing in the Gospels or Acts do have traditional names attributed to them.

So the daughters of St. Philip the Deacon are remembered to have had the Greek names of Hermione, Eutychia or Euchidia, Irais, and Chariline or Mariamne. They all seem to have taken vows to live as virgins.

St. Hermione seems to have been the eldest. After Philip moved his family to Herod’s port town of Caesarea Maritima, in order to spread Christianity, Hermione studied Jewish and Greek medicine and became a female physician. As mentioned in Acts 21, St. Paul and various of his companions (including St. Luke) stayed at Philip’s house.

Tradition says that after Paul went up to Jerusalem to get arrested, as prophesied by Agabus, the Christians of Caesarea Maritima got driven out.

(The Christians soon came back. According to Eusebius, who was from around there and would know, the first bishop was St. Zacchaeus himself! He was succeeded by Cornelius (maybe that Cornelius) and then by Theophilus (maybe that Theophilus.)

Philip ended up moving to Hierapolis in Asia Minor, a hot springs town still known for its amazing natural rock formations (the Pamukkale). His tomb is there.

At some point, St. Hermione moved to Ephesus along with Eutychia. They were planning to get spiritual guidance from John, but he died shortly before they got there. So they helped out the new bishop by starting a free medical clinic, along with the first known xenodochium, a house of hospitality for visiting Christians that would become common in most large parishes.

Dr. Hermione ran afoul of the authorities during the co-reign of Trajan and Hadrian. Accounts of her life say that she was subjected to various tortures, but just didn’t die. Finally the governor ordered two men to execute her, but at this point they were doubtful that it would work, and sure that the governor would execute them for failure. So they set their problem before the prophetess, and begged her to pray God to take her to heaven. So she took pity on them, and did so, and just died all of a sudden.

Assuming this story is historical, she’d be a confessor, not a martyr. But she’s always been counted as a martyr. Either way, her feast day is September 4.

As for St. Philip’s other daughters, Eutychia/Euchidia seems to have left Ephesus before all this happened, and died somewhere in a way that no story has come down to us. But Irais and Chariline lived out their lives in Hierapolis, and were visited by many Christians who wanted to hear their eyewitness stories. Papias (the bishop of Hierapolis and a historian) took down their accounts extensively, in his lost book, as Eusebius tells us in his own history.

BTW, the people who are counted as the very first early Christian unmercenary physicians are Ss. Zenaida and Philonella, two cousins of St. Paul who set up a free clinic in Thessaly. They were baptized into the faith by their brother Jason, who was then bishop of Tarsus.

(Zenaida, Philonella, and Jason would all be their Greek use names, not their Jewish names. Zenaida means “of Zeus” or “of God.” Philonella is a female form of Philo/Philon, “friendly love.”)

They decided to enter the local philosophical academy and study Greek medicine, and then moved to the area of Thessaly around Mt. Pelion near Demetriada, and near the famous Asclepius temple of healing. Priests and physicians in the area were known sometimes to charge exorbitant prices or demand big donations, and obviously healing included pagan worship and magical amulets and potions.

So they found a mineral spring, set up a Christian chapel and little huts for themselves, and offered treatment for free.

Legend says that St. Philonella was an experimental physician, willing to try to treat people with unknown diseases, and trying to create better treatments through totally natural, non-magical means. St. Zenaida was particularly interested in treating children who were sick, as well as psychiatric disorders. Both of them lived a life of prayer when not treating patients. Later on, a monastery for men was founded nearby, by their students Pateras, Philocyrus, and Papias. (Which is probably how Papias ended up becoming bishop.)

Legends differ as to whether they were stoned to death as martyrs, or whether they lived out their lives in peace. But their feast is October 11.

Other saints classified as “anargyroi” (literally, “no-silvers”) include Ss. Cosmas and Damian the surgeons, St. Pantaleon, St. Tryphon, St. Thaleleus of Anazarbus, Ss. Cyrus and John, St. Samson the Hospitable. But there’s a ton, and of course many religious orders still provide free medical treatment today.

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Muggle is Middle English

It turns out that “muggle” is a Middle English word for “mullet tail, or person with a fish tail,” and it seems to have been used both ways. There was also “mugling,” which was a descendant of such a tailed person.

It’s in freakin’ Layamon’s Brut, for goodness’ sake.

Here’s the link.

Other spellings included “moggles.” The tail itself is also spelled “mughel.” Other spellings of the fish name include “mugil” (that’s the mullet fish), and “migal/migale” (also the mullet fish).

The Fordun Scotichronicon tells the story of the town of Muglington as being a place where everyone was born with tails, and that therefore people in Kent were called Longtails. It was the result of a visit by St. Augustine of Canterbury, when the pagan Saxon people refused to listen to his preaching. Even worse, they twisted what he said, and then mocked him by sewing fish tails onto his clothing. So God cursed them and their posterity with a tail on their posteriors.

The author says that the village of Thanewyth in Mercia also supposedly mocked St. Augustine and got the same punishment. And that St. Thomas a Becket got mocked in the Middle Ages by having his horse’s tail docked, but then the people of that town got tail-cursed also.

There is a fun little article about this which enumerates all the mocking and repeating and references to these stories that people from Kent got, in an 1896 issue of the Transactions of the Glasgow Archaeological Society.

Obviously this was not in Rowling’s mind, but it probably was part of why the name was so insulting, in her universe. Non-wizards are not just mudbloods; they are beasts, not even warmbloods, cursed with fishes’ tails.

Anyway, here’s a few more uses of the word “muggle” before Rowling.

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