September Feast Calendar (The Rest of It, Anyway)

Bodleian Library MS Rawl. D 939

Well, well, will you look at the time? It’s already September and the Feast of St. Cuthbert (September 4th) has come and gone. Whatever will you do with the rest of your time this month?

Well, there’s just one shopping day left before the Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin, which takes place on September 8th. And not long after that, (September 13th-14th) comes The Exultation of the Cross. Who knew September was so theologically loaded?

Lambertusfest sounds like a second-rate touring metal concert series, but is actually just the name that the Germans give to the Feast of St. Lambert, which arrives on September 17th. They celebrate Lambert, a bishop of Maastricht (whose family had some soap-opera-worthy dealings with Charles Martel’s family way back in the day) by building and decorating big wooden tripods they call Lambertus trees, which sounds like something I’d make up but isn’t.

On September 21st, you’ll want to clear some room for the Feast of St. Matthew, who you may have heard is kind of a big deal. But only a day later comes the feast of the saint that some people call the space cowboy:*

September 22nd, St. Maurice

Maurice was the leader of Rome’s only all-Christian legion in the fourth century, based out of Thebes. As you might expect, he was eventually ordered to use his legion to persecute some non-militarized Christians. The story from that point on makes a pretty good GRE question:

When Maurice would not do as Rome commanded, the emperor Maximian ordered every tenth man in his legion killed. Maurice continued to resist, and again every tenth man in the legion was killed. Maurice continued to resist, so the emperor rounded him and his troops up and had them all killed. When they buried the men killed in the final purge, they needed 5401 graves. Assuming that Maximian only killed whole men (and not fractions of men), and that each man was buried in his own grave, approximately how many men were in Maurice’s legion to begin with?**

A) 6,000
B) 6,534
C) 6,535
D) 6,666
E) 66,666

St. Maurice protects against gout and cramps and is traditionally the patron saint of soldiers, armorers, swordsmiths, alpine infantrymen, clothmakers and dyers, among others. If I had anything to say about it, he’d be the patron saint of grammatical pedants, too. You know, the sort who hear you say “I could totally decimate a steak right about now” and go “Actually, decimate originally meant ‘to reduce by a tenth’, so you’re really saying that you do not want to eat much steak at all.”***

Maurice is usually depicted as a black man in armor–whatever armor is popular at the time the depiction is created. That means that if we worked like medieval Christian iconographers, today he’d be depicted wearing digital camouflage piloting an unmanned drone while drinking Horde Red Mountain Dew. Sometimes, he’s depicted as a soldier flanked by eight men on each side (10 -1 -1), because iconographers don’t understand how percents work.

People who can’t get enough of John and Kate Plus Eight (Minus John), the Olsen Twins, or the acclaimed Disney Channel original documentary Twitches might be interested in…

September 27th, SS. Cosmas and Damian

Cosmas and Damian were martyred during the Diocletian Persecutions (303-311), which was sort of the persecution to get martyred during if you were thinking sainthood. In life, they were twins, surgeons who performed a miraculous leg transplant, attaching a black Ethiopian’s leg to replace a white man’s diseased one. And thus they are the patron saints of surgeons, dentists, and vets, as well as children, orphanages, and candy-sellers. They also protect against hernias and the plague.

They’re extremely useful saints for art historians, too, as whenever you can’t identify a pair of haloed men standing next to each other, you can always suggest they be tentatively identified as Cosmas and Damian.

Two days later, medieval Christians celebrated the feast of a saint who’s very hard to mistake (iconographically-speaking) for any other saint:

September 29th, St. Michael

St. Michael’s feast is so important it still has a fancy name in English: Michaelmas, or Michael’s Mass. Michael is an archangel, the one will lead the host of heaven against the forces of evil during the apocalypse. He’s traditionally depicted as a winged man with a sword putting some serious smack down on a demon or a dragon or some sort of monster. Basically, take your St. George and stick wings on his back and you’ve got St. Michael.

Michael is an important medieval saint, because he’s the one who makes sure that pious souls end up in heaven. You might also think of him as the commander of the guardian angel corps. Personally, I think it’s a little bit strange that angels also get to be saints, but nobody asked me when they set up the veneration rules. He’s also the specific patron of soldiers, police officers, paratroopers, and fighter pilots and he’s also useful in exorcisms.

Traditionally, you eat “stubble goose”,**** carrots, and St. Michael’s bannock on Michaelmas.

Rounding out the month, the Feast of St. Jerome falls on September 30th. Jerome is one of the four original Doctors of the Church and was responsible for tidying up the Latin Bible to make the Vulgate. Apparently, he also removed a thorn from a lion’s paw, then made the lion repay his lifedebt by guarding his ass. His donkey, I mean. Using a lion to guard yourself would’ve made more sense, but maybe it was an important ass.

That’s it for the feast calendar this month. So, be sure to make your grapes into wine soon so you’ll have time for all those saints clustered at the end of the month.

*Confused Steve Miller fans, mostly.
**The answer, of course, is 6,666, which you would know if you hadn’t wasted all that time in college taking linear algebra.
***To which I respond, “I said what I meant. I want to decimate a steak. But it’s a very large steak.” And they say, “How large?” And I say, “Your typical steak is around 12oz. The steak I had in mind was 180oz.” And then, sheepishly, they say, “I see. If you wish to eat 18oz of steak, then you are truly very hungry. Our mistake.” And then I smile witheringly.
****A goose killed when the wheat has been harvested, but before plowing, so that there’s just “stubble” left in the fields.

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  • sputnitsa

    History AND hilarity. I'm grateful. 🙂

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