Israel: The Short Version

Modern Israel is weird because the settlers of modern Israel were weird. Holocaust survivors with PTSD and a thirst for revenge, or extremely current skills at fighting for the Resistance, or for various militaries, were blended with people who were basically farmers or tradesmen or merchants who had never fought anybody. People of every political stripe not just from one country, but from all over the world. And weirdest of all, the Jewish kibbutz folks who wanted to be Jewish Communists who spoke Hebrew but didn’t know bupkis about the Bible, and who actively prevented smart kids from pursuing higher education. (But couldn’t stop them from joining Israel’s army.)

Modern Israel is weird because a lot of the “Palestinian Arabs” were actually resettled there by the Ottoman Empire, somewhere around the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Often by pushing indigenous Arab/Israeli Christians or Muslims off their land, or out of their houses. People don’t talk about this. (And actually, a lot of Middle East problems come from this forced resettlement stuff happening everywhere on the fringes of the Ottoman Empire. In Armenia, as we know, it ended in genocide.)

Modern Israel is weird because it’s a small enough country that a lot of people know each other. People can be at each other’s throats in their parliament, but also be relatives or college friends or army buddies.

Another reason that modern Israel is weird is that they tend to have an “ourselves alone” attitude, just like modern Ireland used to have. It’s not that they’re not good allies, because they can be. It’s that they’re going to consider their own self-interest first, mostly because they know that historically they’ve been messed with, and that people continue to mess with them today. But honestly, that’s how the US does things also.

The US did some amazingly nasty or unhelpful things to Israel, early on and at random times down the years, and Israel has occasionally done nasty or unhelpful things in return, or at random times. That doesn’t make them not our ally; it makes them slightly more our ally than France. 🙂

If we have a State Department or intelligence analyst paying attention, we should be able to keep Israel on our side without putting ourselves into bad positions. When Israel has weird political parties in power (okay, that’s all the time!), we should be able to figure out their goals and be ready for what they might want to do. But it’s okay to have allies that are not clones of the US.

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Fun with Kidney Stones

If you’ve never had kidney stones, keep doing what you’re doing. If you have, here’s some interesting info.

Basically, as long as you are hydrated, your kidneys are usually able to cope with everything you do and drink. But large crystallized compounds called kidney stones can form under the following conditions:

1: Not enough calcium in your diet, or coming into the kidneys, to bind to the little oxalates and push them along. So potentially you have a big gang of lonely oxalates hanging out temporarily in your kidneys. If you pee them out, you’re okay. But if you don’t, they get together and form crystals as soon as other stuff shows up.

2. Too much calcium without enough water, which turns into calcium crystals in the kidneys, that don’t get out if they get too big. (And then when oxalates come along, they bind to these crystals, and suddenly you have a really big kidney stone.) Calcium oxalate crystals being formed in your digestive system is normal, but having them form in your kidneys is the most common kind of kidney stone.

3. Too much cystine in your kidneys, period. Cystine, an essential amino acid, usually isn’t a problem unless you have cystinuria, a fairly rare genetic disease that messes with absorption.

4. Too much calcium phosphate in your kidneys without enough liquid. Those lonely calcium crystals can also get together with phosphates and make calcium phosphate crystals, or even join calcium phosphate with existing calcium oxalate crystals. This means you have a lot of calcium and not enough oxalates in your tummy… and something else going on. Urinary tract infections, but also other kidney problems or hyperthyroidism.

5. Uric acid crystals that actually turn into stones. Bad, bad dehydration is what causes this, or really acidic urine, or certain diseases. They can actually treat it short term with baking soda/bicarbonate of soda antacid!

6. Struvite stones = magnesium ammonium phosphate. Caused by really alkaline urine, which doesn’t usually happen unless you have an infection somewhere. They give people stuff to neutralize the pH and deal with the stuff in the stones.

If this isn’t a good recap of what I’ve read, read up on it for yourself.

So basically, it benefits you to eat/drink lots of calcium, so that the oxalates bind to it in your tummy instead of in your kidneys.

And you should drink a fair amount of water every day, so that all the various kinds of crystals do not form in your kidneys, and don’t get to the point that they are big masses that don’t dissolve easily.

And you should urinate and clear things out, because otherwise your kidneys will just work hard to concentrate everything into uric acid crystals, while all the other crystals have more time to get together and cause trouble.

If people know they tend to get specific kinds of kidney stones, their doctors will have specific recommendations. (There seem to be a lot of ins and outs, often based on what you are already taking in vitamins, prescription drugs, etc. Excess Vitamin C can turn into oxalates, and Vitamin D pills often include extra calcium.)

But what else helps?

The juice of citrus fruit and melons contain citrates, which can also bind to calcium in your kidneys and help you pee it out, and thus keep oxalates moving on out of the kidneys instead of making stones. This is one reason why lots of multivitamins and electrolyte drinks contain potassium citrate.

Nuts, potatoes, chocolate, black tea, beets, rhubarb, bran flakes, currants, leeks, summer squash, sweet potatoes, tomato soup, grits, tofu, Concord grapes, and spinach are high in oxalates. But they also tend to make you urinate, which usually is good for kidneys. So you have to think about levels. Eat/drink calcium with them, basically, and don’t pig out every day.

(In the UK, where people usually drink tea with milk or cream, they don’t have to worry about black tea oxalates as much. But remember, almond milk is also a nut.)

Or you could look up other tonics to encourage urination, that don’t include oxalates. (Just don’t use peppermint tea, as some people have good luck with it, but it seems to bring on kidney stones in others.) “Palo azul” or “azul tea” is a bark-based tea that is supposed to do wonders, but I don’t know anything about it. Green tea or oolong tea is a lot easier to find, and apparently fights stone formation. (They are both low in oxalates, because of how they are processed after picking.)

Eating too much meat or too many carbs and sugars, all at once, can stress out your kidneys. Don’t do that, or don’t do it for days and days in a row.

Don’t stress out. Some people’s kidneys don’t work well when they’re unhappy, angry, anxious, etc. (Probably stress hormones.)

Resveratrol fights kidney inflammation and helps your kidneys keep pushing junk out. It’s found in peanuts (a nut!), cocoa (chocolate!), grapes, blueberries, strawberries, mulberries, bilberries, and cranberries. In grapes, it’s only present in the skins, which is why red wine has resveratrol and white wine mostly does not. (The skins are strained out of white and rose wine at an earlier point in production.) But your body metabolizes resveratrol and doesn’t grab a lot of it, which is why there are pills.

Drink water and go to the bathroom regularly. Seriously. Then you don’t have to remember this stuff.


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Ruth Lyons

Today on Channel 5 from Cincinnati, they re-broadcast a documentary from 2011 about the legendary Midwestern television host, Ruth Lyons. (Ruth Lyons: First Lady of Television.) It was fascinating, because she basically had the force of personality to ignore sexism (or inertia) and push her way to the top… and people loved it! She just did stuff instead of thinking about it, and she gently trolled others instead of being trolled.

She went from a job playing piano on WKRC radio, to emergency guest host, to on-the-spot reporter of the Great Flood of 1937. She wanted to do more news, but ended up becoming WKRC’s program director; and then took over the field of variety entertainment at lunchtime for housewives, on a new rival television station, WLWT.

Needless to say, nobody previously had known that housewives needed a variety entertainment and talk show format at lunchtime. Or a tv host who tested the products she was supposed to advertise, and refused to accept sponsors whose products stunk… and revealed the stinkage on the air.

She was a gifted, prolific songwriter (every week there was at least one new song by her), a good pianist in many styles, and a serviceable singer, but she had a real eye for talent and was interested in pushing people to the top. There was a reason that agents tried to get their clients on Ruth Lyons’ 50-50 Club. Back then, the Tonight Show was okay, but it was Ruth Lyons who sold albums and theater tickets.

She was beloved for speaking her mind, and her show had no color line. All her guests were her guests, who sat next to her on her rocking loveseat. She touched off controversy in 1963 by spontaneously dancing with a famous black singer, and then delivering an on-air talk the next week about how she had been getting nasty phone calls. The next week, the station was flooded with supportive phone calls instead.

She also pranked the All-Star baseball game in 1957, getting her audience to send votes for the entire Reds starting lineup, and thus creating an all-Reds National League All-Star team. (Needless to say, the voting rules changed the next year.) She apparently also wrote the lyrics to “We’ll Rally ‘Round the Reds,” to the tune of “The Battle Cry of Freedom.”

But after tireless years, her sister died of cancer, and then her adopted daughter was also diagnosed with terminal cancer. She had a stroke and started to get better… and then her daughter died in 1966.

Lyons tried to come back to work, but was physically weak and mentally fragile. She ended up breaking down on the show one day in January 1967, when her young friend Carol Channing was on, and Channing had to try to help her regain composure on live television. Lyons and her doctor decided she should retire, so she did. That day. She was a decisive lady.

From then on, her younger co-host Bob Braun helmed The 50/50 Club, which became The Bob Braun Show, and went on for years and years more. That’s the show I grew up with. His son Rob Braun worked in Cincinnati TV news as an anchor.

Lyons lived quietly in retirement, suffering a series of strokes that made her speech hard to understand, but also writing a memoir that was a local bestseller. She died in 1988.

Besides the daytime talk show, her greatest legacy is probably the Ruth Lyons Children’s Fund. Originally founded (as the Ruth Lyons Children’s Christmas Fund) to provide Christmas presents for poor kids who were stuck in the hospital over the holidays, it grew to provide all sorts of resources for kids and for hospitals in the Midwest. I still have my stuffed dog toy from when I was in the hospital, and plenty of people across the region can say the same.

Here’s an earlier documentary from 1988: Ruth Lyons: Portrait of a Legend.

Ruth Lyons Tribute in several parts, from Norwood Primetime Television, on December 6, 1985. Features many of her staff and singers, including Cliff Lash, her bandleader, who transcribed to sheet music all the songs she wrote by ear.

Here’s a half-hour of excerpts by the producer from Ruth Lyons: First Lady of Television. It includes the story of how Cincinnati and Dayton ended up with more color tvs per capita than a lot bigger cities in the rest of the US.

Ruth Lyons Children’s Fund is accepting donations. Every cent that you donate will go directly to hospitals and kids; there is no administrative overhead at all. “Happy Birthday, Ruth Lyons” tells the story.

Ten Tunes of Christmas: Ruth Lyons. The whole album. It sold more than 500,000 copies, back in 1958. And yes, of course Candee Records was Ruth Lyons’ own indie label!

“Sing a Song of Christmas” by Ruth Lyons, sung by her and her tv show staff. From the album.

“Wasn’t the Summer Short,” written by Ruth Lyons for Johnny Mathis.

“Have a Merry Merry Merry Christmas,” written by Ruth Lyons. Also from the album.

“Christmas Is a Birthday Time” by Ruth Lyons, sung by Ruby Wright.

“Let’s Light the Christmas Tree” by Ruth Lyons, sung by the Lennon Sisters.

“Christmas Lullaby” at about 7 minutes in, sung by Marian Spelman, for whom Ruth Lyons wrote the song in 1961. This seems like a really appropriate Christmas song for this crazy year, and I think all you parents will like it.

“Once Upon a Christmas Time” by Ruth Lyons, from her album It’s Christmas Time Again.

Another Tom from Ohio’s Youtube channel seems to have the most Ruth Lyons songs of anyone!

WLW Radio’s simulcast of The 50/50 Club, from 11/22/1963 (the day of JFK’s assassination). The bad news doesn’t arrive until the whole show is over, and another show is about to begin. No special guests, just in-house fun with the audience.

Ruth Lyons’ Coffee Cake recipe.


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Mother Cabrini Day!

Today is the feast (okay, the memorial) of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (aka Maria Francesca Cabrini, Cecchina Cabrini, and Francesca Saverio Cabrini), a religious sister who founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and emigrated from Italy to the mission fields of the United States. Along with her sisters, she gave tireless care to the American poor of every denomination, as well as setting up many Catholic schools, parishes, hospitals, orphanages, etc. After untiring service that stood in contrast to her tiny frail body and extremely high, cute soprano voice, she died on December 22, 1917, from the after-effects of catching malaria in Rio de Janeiro, ten years before.

As a legal immigrant who became a citizen of the United States, she was the first US citizen to become a saint, in 1946.

Cabrini and her sisters were wonderworkers with their prayers, which isn’t proof of sainthood but doesn’t hurt to show good fruit in their lives. This was seriously downplayed in the last half-century and more, particularly by those putting forward Cabrini as a saint of “social justice.”

Well, sorry, but you don’t get a St. Martin de Porres without the supposedly-embarrassing signs and wonders. The more practical and hands-on the saint is in charity, the more likely that signs and. wonders will happen.

(Activism doesn’t seem to produce saints or wonders, as it is a side-activity to charity, or even a way of blocking ordinary citizens from helping their brothers and sisters, calling on government to replace neighborliness. There are government-bureaucrat-type saints, but not many. Usually martyrs.)

The sad truth is that a lot of the secular products of Cabrini’s hard work have been closed down and destroyed. Orphanages have been decentralized into foster care, which has been good for most kids but has promoted abuse of others. Charity hospitals were closed down for lack of personnel and lack of vocations, or lack of interest by dioceses, or changes in the law and liability; or they have been sold off to businesses, which then often closed them down for being in unprofitable areas of cities. Inner city parishes are bare of parishioners, because everybody moved out to the suburbs. Parochial schools are no longer owned by the sisters and are no longer free to the poor, or no longer in existence.

But that’s not Mother Cabrini’s fault, is it? The same people who want her as a saint of social justice are the ones who have largely turned Catholic charities and action into “make the government do everything” activists, and who have no problem with government regulations that have largely outlawed traditional forms of charity. Making the poor jump through government hoops isn’t very charitable, and doesn’t fill people’s needs in anything but the roughest way. And Catholic adoption services are not allowed to match Catholic babies with practicing Catholic parents, even though matching by “race” is apparently the most important thing in the world.

Mother Cabrini lived and worked in New York, Chicago, Denver, New Orleans, Seattle, and many other cities that were once prosperous, but have now collapsed, or been damaged by riots. We should invoke the prayers of our friend and neighbor (and fellow voter), St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. But we also should start to give and pray and do more, ourselves, without waiting for some agency to do it.

Cabrini was once reluctant to start running charity hospitals and medical ministries, because she thought that wasn’t her order’s job. She would just help raise money, and help another order to do it. Then she had a dream where she saw Our Lady dressed as “Consoler of the Afflicted,” but nursing the sick in a hospital, with her dress pinned up to give her freedom of movement. Mary sternly told Cabrini, “I am doing what you refuse to do!” Cabrini took the hint.

Are we refusing to do God’s work, refusing to help our neighbors directly?

In a move that went largely unnoticed due to riots and COVID restrictions, in 2020 the state of Colorado renamed Columbus Day “Cabrini Day.” I can’t decide if that was stupid or smart, in current year. Regardless, I think it’s pretty funny to have a secular US saint’s day, especially one set up by SJWs; and personally I would push it as far as it would go.

(No offense to Columbus, who suffered great obloquy in his own time and today for trying to stop abuses of Native Americans. Why do you think he lost his government jobs and got imprisoned?)

She was a farmgirl, and never lost that practicality. Cabrini earned her own teaching license and thought she was going to live a single, secular life or would marry, much like most girls today. But God had other ideas; the saint teaches us to listen. Cabrini is also a model for today because she was refused entrance to two religious orders, once because of her health and once because she was considered to be “too useful to spare” by her parish priest, who was a friend but also got it wrong. Cabrini had to found her own religious order in order to follow God’s will, another activity discouraged today. But the good side was that she did gain a lot of administrative experience in her own hometown.

The super-freaky thing was what happened next. Her pastor asked her to help out for a few weeks at a charitable orphanage. He thought she would make a good fixer. She ended up stuck there for six years — first with three jerks supervising her, who all thought they were Cinderella’s stepsisters; and then as boss to those same jerks, who suddenly thought they were Cinderellas. Yeah… become a saint or break. But again, this shows Cabrini’s sympathy for those who are governed badly. She learned to look out for herself and others, to have a strong will, and to understand the dark side of human nature.

And then her bishop looked into the sitation, got her out of it, and suggested she found her own order — a missionary order, since she had a missionary heart.

Which she did, and then didn’t put up with any of that crud which other people had put her through. (She seems to be one of the few modern foundresses of religious orders who didn’t get mistreated by mean girls and would-be Iagos in her old age.) Even though her bishop and her old pastor both thought her order should be missionaries to Italy, she knew that her order was called to go out far away. Without defying anyone, her will to follow God’s will for them remained adamant. The same thing happened when various bishops told her she should not go to Rome and get his permission to send sisters to foreign parts. She did not defy them, but she consulted a canon law expert, learned her rights, and went to Rome. (And was told in a dream to go, by Baby Jesus. And got her permission, even though Pope Leo XIII told her that she was needed in America, not in Asia as she had planned. And then she used her papal permission to trump other bishops… very politely.)

As was said about her by Mons. Aristeo V. Simoni, in his introduction to The Life of Mother Cabrini, American Saint by Mabel Farnum, “God sometimes leaves His children in the dark so that they may see His [guiding] stars.”

But she took a more cheerful view. Cabrini’s idea was that we take the good things God gives us, use them as best we can at the moment, identify the problems and fill in the gaps when we can, but not worry too much about what is currently lacking. Her prayer when things were needed was, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, we thank thee.” She also insisted that “Missionaries are joyous! They have every right to be, because they are Christ’s.” Even when the seas were rough on the sisters’ voyage to America, she took it as both a test from God, and a sign of God wishing to bless them when they passed the test.

When she needed more sisters, she asked the religious order that had run her school to send them any sisters who weren’t fitting in or who were unhappy with the life. In her house, these “misfits” became valuable sisters, and holy. Her Rule insisted that there was no need for ascetic penances beyond the common life of Catholics and sisters, because “Religious life in itself offers every chance for sacrifice. There is no need to seek further for crosses.”

But whenever the sisters had nothing left of some supply, and no money to buy more, Mother Cabrini would ask them just to check the cupboard one more time — and there it would be, even though the cupboard had been completely bare. Or there would be money in the desk drawer, once or twice.They were not begging sisters, though they did beg when it was needed. But most of all, they always lived in dependence on God.

If you can get access to, follow the link to Farnum’s book. It is charming and not too rose-colored.

And it also tells the story of how she surprised and conquered the archbishop of Buenos Aires, and got her way for her order…. Her Colegio Santa Rosa is still at work.


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The Martyrs of Nice, France

On October 29, three churchgoers at the Basilica of Notre Dame de l’Assomption were attacked and killed by an Islamic jihadi, in hatred for our Faith. They’re not even the first modern martyrs killed by jihadis in Nice, but their case is even clearer than usual.

Vincent Loques, layman, sacristan, 55, was a devoted husband and the father of two children. He was known for his “friendly face,” and for being available at the basilica all day, every day, for the last ten years.

Brahim Aossaoui, his killer, had waited outside the basilica all night, according to his mother who had received a text in Tunisia that did not reveal his other plans. Loques unlocked the basilica doors at 8:30 AM and let Aossauoi in, as he would let anyone enter in the morning. Once the doors were open, Aossauoi slit Loques’ throat. It is a gesture of contempt associated with halal animal slaughter.

Nadine Devillers, laywoman, 60, was happily married and known for her “strong and pure heart” and her “kindness.” She was from Draguignan but moved to Nice at age 18. She was a regular at the basilica, a daily Massgoer. She died close to the baptismal font, stabbed and nearly beheaded.

Simone Barreto Silva, laywoman, 44, was a Brazilian immigrant to France who had lived there for 30 years, and was the mother of two children. She broke away from her attacker, despite her wounds, and made it all the way across the street to a cafe, where she asked for help. As she died, she asked those around her to tell her children that she loved them.

(It is worth saying the owner of the cafe, Brahim Jelloule, was also a Muslim, but he dragged Barreto Silva inside his cafe and tried to save her.)

Those who die martyrs for Jesus’ sake will go straight to Heaven. These people are now with God, and they are our friends.

Martyrs of Nice, pray for us!

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A Whole Month for Helping the Dead!!!

Pope Francis and the Curia actually listened to the world’s bishops, and they have reinstituted Pope Benedict’s generous grant, adding the entire month of November to the Halloween through November 8 octave for visiting cemeteries and praying for the dead.

So from October 31 through November 30, you can visit any cemetery (not just Catholic ones), pray for the dead, and earn them a partial or plenary indulgence.

“The usual conditions” apply. Which means that to get the dead their full plenary indulgence, you need to go to Confession and receive Communion at some point before, during, or after the month. (Usually it’s a period within about 21 days. So you could go in October, go in December, and still cover the entire month of November. You also have to maintain a state of not being attached to sins, even if you happen to sin, and you have to pray for the pope’s intentions on the day you go to Communion and/or Confession.

But what if you don’t? What if you mess up or leave out some of the conditions?

Partial indulgence. Still good for the Poor Souls or any other dead person.

Basically, the Church wants you to pray for the dead, an.d to have a good excuse for calling on the Church’s treasury of prayers and other good things. So the idea is to make it super-easy and generous.

But you have to go in person.

There’s another plenary indulgence for praying for the dead in a church or oratory, which is normally available only on All Soul’s Day, but which has also been extended to the entire month of November. Homebound or vulnerable people can pray at home before a picture or statue of Jesus or the Virgin Mary, or they can offer up their own sufferings as an act of mercy.

So you can grab either of the two indulgences every day in November, for the dead!

NOTE: Jesus said that people would not just be subject to justice for their sins, or mercy and forgiveness of their sins, after they died and were judged. He said that there were earthly consequences to our sins, and that we have to pay those back in some way after we die, “to the very last penny.” (Lk. 12:59)

An “indulgence” is basically a promise, on the authority of the Church as Christ’s Bride, that this payback part of Purgatory would be taken care of, by Christ and the members of His Body. Most of the time, we are encouraged to acknowledge our own sinfulness, and to do various prayerful activities that provide partial and plenary indulgences for ourselves. This month, we do it for the dead, whether those we know or those we don’t.

You can seek an indulgence for “one of the souls in Purgatory,” or name a specific person. If the person you name is already in bliss in Heaven, or sadly is in Hell instead of Heaven/Purgatory, some other soul will get helped.

When you help those in Purgatory, they will help you with their prayers. Ask them for intercession if you have special intentions that you need help with. This is a beautiful manifestation of the Communion of Saints, and someday you will meet up with these folks in Heaven and on the New Earth.

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Free Unmercenary Physicians Book for Kids!

I don’t know why this didn’t show up on my previous web searches, but the Orthodox Church in America has a nice coloring and activity book PDF, talking about the stories of various doctor saints.

And since pretty much all the pre-conciliar saints and the saints accepted by the Byzantine Rite and other Catholic rites are the same, this is something Catholic kids can (mostly) use too.

(Subject to parental review. And St. Luke of Simferopol and St. Matrona of Moscow seem like good recent folks, but they’re not in any Catholic calendars that I know about. Let’s pray for an end to schisms and divisions among Christians.)

The saints are listed in alphabetical order, not in chronological order. Some of the saints have coloring pages, designed to look like icons.

Unfortunately, some of the activities are not amazing, and the colors and layout are much more like fliers than a book. But I think the PDF “ebook” was really intended as a source for church bulletin inserts, and for printouts for catechetical classes. The maps are a really good thing, and the coloring pages too.

A few of the saints are not physicians, per se, but rather are popular healing saints and/or wonderworkers in the various Eastern churches. For example, St. Artemios of Antioch (Flavius Artemius, who served as dux Aegypti under Constantius II, and was martyred by Emperor Julian the Apostate) was a general and politician. But he’s popular as a saint for intercession in cases of men’s diseases, hernias, gut problems, and psychiatric disorders. (Apparently there were lots of later miracles at his tomb in St. John the Forerunning’s church, in Constantinople.)

(Flavius Artemius was an interesting guy. He actually was a supporter of the Arian bishop of Alexandria, George of Cappadocia, and he did a lot of stuff that would be the work of a villain or a bad official. But at the end, he stood up to Julian when others would not. So he’s probably a good intercessor for any politicians whose soul you worry about.)

Anyway, I don’t know anybody else who’s done a book like this, although saint coloring books are pretty common. It might be a good idea for other Christian churches!

The OCA has similar resources about Orthodox saints with animal friends, and so on. Most of the others are more Orthodox-oriented, although some parts of the books may be suitable for Catholic kids.

Kudos to the artist of the coloring pages!

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The Good Borgia Pope

Yup, there was one. Pope Callixtus III, aka Alfons de Borja. He was a nobleman who became a law professor and a clergyman, and then was asked to tutor King Alfonso V of Aragon’s illegitimate son, Ferrante. The king was so impressed that he had Fr. de Borja appointed bishop of Valencia; and then as a diplomat for Aragon, he impressed Pope Eugenius IV enough to be named a cardinal and asked to serve in Rome. He managed to reconcile his king and his pope, and participated in two papal conclaves, being elected the second time he did so.

He lived an austere and prayerful life, and was much concerned with defending Europe against the Turks, while also promoting spiritual life and the saints. He granted and ran Joan of Arc’s posthumous retrial and acquittal, canonized St. Vincent Ferrer, and called for churches to ring their bells at noon so that people would remember to pray for the crusaders defending Belgrade. After victory over the Turkish siege was achieved on August 6, the Feast of the Transfiguration, Pope Callixtus III declared that it was to be celebrated universally in the West, instead of just here and there in places.

He was a good pope. His worst mistake was naming his nephew a cardinal. It was Rodrigo de Borgia who would become the shady Pope Alexander VI, and whose kindred would make a great deal of trouble in Italy.

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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 dad and mom 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 where things went slightly pearshaped.

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 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 scut work, 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 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, and 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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Robin J. Nakkula ATEN’T DEAD YET!!!!!




Yesterday, one of my filk friends told me that the Columbus filker Robin Nakkula had passed away. Of your goodness, please pray for her soul.

Robin was a scientist by trade, and was a gifted lab technician and lab manager. She did medical and biological research at Ohio State and at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She is credited on a huge number of scientific papers. Other papers credited her internally for recordkeeping, “setting the standard for reproducible experiments,” “keeping the lab from being shut down,” “making the histones,” and generally keeping younger students on the straight and narrow.

She also had at least one published story, “State Road,” in Mike Resnick’s 1993 anthology Christmas Ghosts, which was co-written with her husband.

She loved lab rats, and had a long term personal project to breed natural colorations back into lab rat strains without losing their intelligence or other favorable qualities of white lab rats. She also trained and made clean, gentle pets of many generations of these lab rats in her own home.

She also participated in the Central Ohio group for Irish culture, the Shamrock Club of Columbus, and in her local neighborhood group.

She had a sharp sense of humor, sometimes mild and sometimes cutting. Many of her songs were about the lighter side of science, particularly biology. But she also tended to look out for younger filkers and help them, and she had a particular kind concern for people experiencing depression or alienation from fandom. I know she contacted me when she was worried about me, and I wish I could have done more for her. I saw her check in at NASFiC and sent her a shoutout, but we did not get to talk.

She was married for twenty-five years to Alan Dormire; their anniversary was just a few weeks back.

St. Gertrude of Nivelles, patron saint of rats, pray for her!

And may He Whose eye is on the sparrow’s fall be gentle with the soul of our friend.

“The Ethology Song (R and K Selective)”

Songs on Captain Wayne’s Mad Music Show: “The Android”, “Biotech Fantasy”, “Something Lingers in the Fridge”, and “You Never Seem to Listen to Me”.

I was always fond of her song “Asteroid Ore”, a spacemining ballad to the tune of “Red Iron Ore.” I gather that she wrote a Zenna Henderson song that I never got to hear.


UPDATE: Now the bad news. Naomi Pardue, who wrote “My Thousand Closest Friends” and many other songs, did pass away, very suddenly. And that is a real kick in the pants, because she was a very sweet person. Also she was a librarian, which is practically holy.

We also lost Bob Laurent, the founder of Wail Songs, Interfilk, and Consonance, but he had been fighting brain cancer for a year.

So please pray for their souls instead. I know a lot of filkers will have remembered them on Rosh Hashana. And please remember them on All Souls Day when you’re trying for that partial or plenary indulgence. We are here to help one another and serve the Lord.

The current episode of FilkCast is dedicated to Naomi Pardue and Bob Laurent.


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St. Atreus?

No. Don’t do it. Don’t name your kid “Atreus.” Please. And there’s no saint. It’s an ill-omened name, and if you only know the name from the God of War games, you need to figure it out.

(And the only reason the hero of Dune is named Paul “Atreides” (ie, descendant of Atreus) is so that you will know right away that his entire family is going to be dysfunctional in the extreme.)

Pelops, the legendary founder/settler of the Peloponnese peninsula, started out life being a beautiful young man who was a grandson of Zeus, and a son of the human king Tantalos and the Titaness Dione. Tantalos had the gods over for dinner, and decided to prove that they were just as stupid as humans by killing and cooking his son Pelops and serving him up to them. (This may have been a power move, because making the gods break an important taboo would make them lose their power, and possibly allow that power to be usurped.)

As soon as the meat was served, the gods figured it out and refused to eat — except for Demeter, who was depressed about Persephone and not paying attention, and therefore chowed down on Pelops’ shoulder. Hermes (or Rhea) put all the pieces back in the cauldron, and then used his (or her) power to resurrect Pelops from the cookpot, and Hephaestus made an ivory shoulder prosthesis for him. All his descendants were then to have one discolored ivory shoulder, lighter than the rest of them. Tantalos was punished in Hades by never being allowed to eat but always having food dangling in his face.

(Interesting comparisons to both the Welsh cauldron-born and to the pickled boys resurrected by St. Nicholas.)

Anyhow, Pelops ended up getting out of Phrygia and settling the Pelopponese, and his sons Atreus and Thyestes got involved in a struggle for the throne with both their half-brother Chrysippus (either murdered by his brothers or by Pelops’ wife Hippodamia, or both) and with each other. Atreus married Aerope, who was in love with Thyestes. Thyestes and Aerope cheated on Atreus, and Aerope gave her husband’s kingship claim object to Thyestes. Atreus killed a bunch of Thyestes’ sons and successfully got Thyestes to eat them at a banquet, and Thyestes slept with one of his daughters to conceive a son who could depose Atreus. It was ugly.

So of course all their kids were cursed. Menelaus married Helen, which was nothing but trouble, and started the Trojan War; Agamemnon sacrificed his own daughter to get favorable winds for the war, stole Achilles’ woman and nearly lost the Trojan War, raped a Trojan princess who correctly prophesied his death and her own, and then got murdered by his wife for the whole sacrificing his daughter thing. And then Agamemnon’s son Orestes had to avenge him by killing his own mom, although this would have meant he would have to kill himself. The gods stepped in and saved Orestes, but there was lots of killin’.

Atreos means “not-shiver, not-tremble” which is probably what led the God of War people to think of linking Greek and Norse mythology, as well as Norse fairytales. The implication is “fearless,” but “not-fear” would be Aphobos (which is a Biblical and Gospel word and has good connotations all over the place!). “Not tremble” possibly implies also that one is not afraid of the gods or of doing things that are shameful or wicked, things that a sensible man would never do.

There’s a famous set of Norse fairytales about “the lad who could not shiver,” because he was both fearless and very literal, and possibly not all that bright. He finally learns to shiver by having his wife stick ice down his back, IIRC. These are connected to similar stories about Ashenlad, who can be depicted as stupid or as very wise and tricky, and with other seeking your fortune stories. Loki and Thor’s stories are very similar, so connecting Loki/Atreus to “the lad who could not shiver” is a nice tie-in.

(It doesn’t totally work, because actually, it turns out that most of Norse mythology seems to post-date Norse contact with the Roman Empire, and a lot of the Norse gods are actually deified late Roman historical figures from Burgundy and the Lombards, or various Germanic tribes. Which is freaky and weird, but there you go. And to be fair, deified founders or ancestors weren’t unusual in world religious history.)

Overall, the character in the God of War series is positive, but not everybody plays God of War; and everybody generally does know about the whole multiple-cannibalization-incest-and-kinslaying curse of the House of Atreus.

The ancient Greeks did not use Atreus as a given name. For good reason. The Christian Greeks didn’t name their kids Atreus either.

So please don’t name your kid Atreus. Especially not your Catholic kid.

(Oh, and btw, “Thyestes” means something like “sacrificer.” So his parents initially meant him to be pious and to appease the gods, but he wasn’t.)

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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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St. Denver?

Nope. Denver in Colorado was named after a politician with the last name Denver. His family was probably named after the town of Denver in Norfolk — “Dena faer” or Dane ford, Dane passage.

Another girls’ name that the Social Security Administration says is increasing in popularity. It’s not a bad name; it’s just not a saint’s name.

There is a Servant of God from Denver, Colorado, who is being submitted for the process of being named a Venerable. Julia Greeley was an ex-slave who moved west, worked as a housekeeper, and used her small wages to help others. She only had one eye, because it was whipped out by her ex-master, and she towed a little red wagon full of needful things like food, coal, and clothing, giving them out to anyone of any race who needed them. When she died, the bishop laid her in state in the cathedral, and thousands of people came to say goodbye to this saintly woman.

Servant of God Julia Greeley, pray for us!

Denver, Norfolk was a very small village until the fens were drained a bit, and it’s still pretty small. So there don’t seem to be any local saints.

There are tons of saints from the general Norfolk area, both missionaries (St. Felix the bishop from Burgundy, Ss. Fursa and Foillan from Ireland) and royal laypeople (Edmund, Etheldreda, and Sexburga). There are also martyrs killed by the Danes.

The most unusual saint was Walstan, a nobleman with royal kindred and wealthy parents (his mom was St. Blitha, aka St. Blythe), who decided he was called by God to become an ordinary farmhand. He left home at age twelve, moved inland from Blythburgh to Taverham, and got a job, vowing celibacy but otherwise living a normal life. He died in 1016, but the oxen drawing his body on a wagon took him to Bawburgh, and that’s where his shrine was built. His feastday is May 30. In the Middle Ages in the area, many farmers visited his shrine on his day.

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