At long last, let’s get to these saints in the second half of June, shall we?
June 22: The Feast of St. Alban
Alban isn’t pictured above, but rather with the saints for the first half of June, because apparently the artist had to move him over to make room for John the Baptist’s lamb. (SPOILER ALERT: John the Baptist had a lamb!) Alban was the first British martyr, sentenced to death in the stead of a Christian priest whom he sheltered against Roman persecution.
He wasn’t just any old martyr, actually–he was one of those martyrs who lets everybody know he’s going to be martyred, in his case first by parting a stream that had flooded and was keeping him and his executioners from arriving at the right execution spot, then by converting the first executioner to Christianity with his pious example.
The second executioner was, of course, successful, because he was going with that old reliable saint-killing technique, the beheading. But to Alban’s credit, the executioner’s eyes did magically fall out once the death blow had been dealt.
June 23: The Feast of St. Ethelreda AKA Æthelthryth or Æðelþryð (for you Anglo-Saxon purists out there)
St Ethelreda was not, as you might suspect, just Aethelred the Unready in a dress. Rather, she was an Anglo-Saxon queen famous for marrying Anglo-Saxon kings and then piously not sleeping with them. According to the Bede, however, she died of a throat tumor as punishment for her youthly fascination with gaudy necklaces, so let that be a lesson for all the vain women who read this blog: you think you’ll be able to make it better by finding a series of kings, marrying them, and piously withholding sex from them, but you can’t, so why not give a poor king a chance?* You’re getting throat cancer either way.
Now the last week of June puts me in an uncomfortable place.*** I try not to snark too hard at the saints who actually appear in the Bible, and in quick succession June brings us The Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist and The Feast of SS Peter and Paul on June 24 and June 29, respectfully.
My reticence is not born out of any great piety; mostly, I figure all the good jokes about the Bible have already been made by now, what with it being the sacred book of Christianity for going on seventeen centuries now. So I’ll just sign off by noting that I don’t know who looks scarier in the picture above, Paul with his fearsome sword or Peter with his fearsome sword-sized double-edged key. I’d like to imagine the image is the result of a Crocodile Dundee-esque exchange along these lines:
INTERIOR BIG CHURCH – DAY
SS Peter and Paul are having an argument over whose name should get top billing in the name of their joint feast. Things have gotten ugly.
St. Paul brandishes his very large but still knife-like sword.
Watch out, I’ve got a knife!
(In an Australian accent) That’s not a knife.
He pulls out a key that’s easily the length of his arm.
THIS is a knife.
No… I’m not sure what that is, but I’m pretty sure that’s not a knife. A key maybe? It kind of looks like a key. Or maybe it’s a mace? Or a flail? Have flails been invented yet?
You were right the first time. It’s my key. My key from Jesus. He gave it to me because I’m the rock on which he’s going to build his church.
You’re not a rock. THIS…
St Peter steps to the side, revealing that Dwayne Johnson has been standing behind him the whole time!
(interrupting) Jesus Christ! It’s the Rock!!
THE ROCK (DWAYNE JOHNSON)
That’s right. And if you don’t stop taking the Lord’s name in vain, I’m going to introduce you to the People’s Elbow.
The Rock turns to the camera and lifts one eyebrow dramatically
Do you smell what the Rock is cooking, blasphemer?
I do. And while I appreciate the sentiment, I wasn’t taking the Lord’s name in vain. I was just talking to my buddy here…
St. Paul steps aside to reveal that Jesus Christ was standing behind him THE WHOLE TIME!!!
Say hello to my little friend.
Hey, I thought He was supposed to be in Heaven. I touched the wounds and everything!
Hollywood, you know where you can find me.
Reportedly,** the Spin Doctors song “Two Princes” is an oblique reference to her saintly biography.
**Reported in the Journal of Things I Just Made Up, vol 2 (new series), issue 3 (Spring 2010), pp. 123-45.
***Reportedly,*** this is the reason why this post was so delayed.