April Feast Calendar (Part 2)

Should you find yourself kidnapped during the second half of this month, you could always pray to St. Alphege, whose feast is celebrated on April 19.  He handles kidnappings year round, of course, but it’d just be extra fitting this time of year.   St. Alphege was known in life as Ælfheah, or “High Elf”, though probably for no interesting reason (sorry, Tolkeinists–lots of Anglo-Saxons just had “elf” in their names). Whilst a bishop, old High Elf was captured by Danes but refused to give in to their terrorist demands and would not allow himself to be ransomed. In response, the Danes got drunk and threw cowbones at him for a while, and when they got tired of that, they popped him on the head with the butt end of an axe and he died, proving once again that you don’t have to be very good at the thing you become saint of.  Personally, if I were kidnapped, I’d pray to someone with a better track record.

April 23 marks the Feast of St. George the patron saint of frikkin’ everybody: England, Germany, Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, Georgia (natch), Serbia, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macdemonia, Moscow, Genoa, Ljubljana, Beirut, Qormi, Victoria, et al.* Both Shakespeare and Cervantes died on St. George’s Day, so if you’re a famous canonical writer (and it’s 1616), be careful! These things come in threes.

On April 25, the Feast of St. Mark is celebrated. Mark is represented above, as expected, by a lion.**  According to tradition, Mark was a North African Christian who was killed by pagans in Alexandria.  His remains were later transferred from Alexandria to Venice by two brothers who had the clever idea of covering them completely with pork fat and skin, which rendered them untouchable by the Muslims (who had taken over Alexandria by the time of the move) who might have tried to stop them.  For this bit of Venetian culinary craftiness, Mark should be the patron saint of Baconaise, Bacon Bits, and the Baconator, but instead he’s the patron saint of Venice.  Catholics, there are some serious synergy opportunities out there for saintly patronage, and you’re just letting them slip through your fingers.***
April 28 marks the Feast of St. Vitalis, an early Christian martyr who was tortured on a rack and buried alive either by Nero or Marcus Aurelius–the dates for his life aren’t secure, so nobody can say for sure. There’s not much to his story other than the way he died, but he did come from a very saintly family.  Both his wife (Valeria) and his two sons (Gervasius and Protasius) made the canonization cut as well.  And for some reason I’ve not yet been able to discover (and am tired of looking for), he’s the patron saint of Thibodaux, Louisiana.  My guess is Thibodaux got its draft pick in the saintly fantasy lottery pretty late.

And there you have it, the rest of the saints for the month of April, at least according to Bodleian Library MS. Rawl D30.

*Thank you, Wikipedia, and the man who invented ctrl-c and ctrl-v.
**Each of the four gospel-writers is represented by an animal symbol (corresponding to those four animals found by God’s throne in Revelations, and if you ask me Mark got the best of the four options.  John’s Eagle is alright, but poor Luke is stuck with an Ox, and Matthew a man.  That’s right, St. Matthew, who was–as far as we know–a man himself, gets represented symbolically by a man.*** I suppose nothing symbolizes a thing more accurately than the thing itself. 
***Sometimes the man has wings like an angel, though, which is admittedly somewhat cooler and less tautological.
****As though your fingers were coated in bacon grease.  Remember, Catholics, your religion is bacon friendly!

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  • Judy

    In Hrolf Kraki's saga, there is a fellow at whom the (Danes? Norwegians?) warriors are shying animal bones. The hero Bodvar Bjarki saves him, as I recall, and he becomes Bodvar's sidekick. Much livelier than what happened to Alfheah. This must have been a standard type of banquet amusement for these guys–picking somebody to throw bones at.
    The story of St. Mark's body smuggled out of Alexandria is not one I'd heard before. Rabelais' Panurge, when he is being roasted on a spit by some Turks, is carefully wrapped in bacon to tenderize him (and of course prays to St. Lawrence for help). Eventually the bacon comes in handy as a way to distract some dogs who are attacking him as he makes his escape.

  • LauraJ

    Alphege said, in what the Vikings wanted to be his ransom note: "Don't ransom me, taxes are already high enough." SO they didn't, and he died. When Anselm came to be the second Norman Abp of C, the locals asked him if Alphege was a martyr for Christ. Anselm said no, but he was a martyr for justice, which truth in action, so of course he was a saint.

    I always liked him.chaym

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