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December 14, 2004

Saint’s day
Posted by Teresa at 11:15 AM * 27 comments

Today is the feast day of Saint John of the Cross, who in my opinion ought to be a patron saint of writers, especially writers currently engaged in the act of composition.* He was a Carmelite at a time when the order was split into pro-reform and anti-reform factions. He was pro-reform. After years of working for that cause, he was kidnapped by anti-reform Carmelites, who imprisoned him for nine months in the dark, tiny, airless, unheated, and hygienically vile closet latrine of a friary in Toledo. While he was there waiting to be rescued, he wrote some of his greatest works.

After that it occurred to him that nobody was going to rescue him, so he escaped on his own.

Comments on Saint's day:
#1 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 12:51 PM:

" . . . in my opinion ought to be a patron saint of writers . . ."

I can imagine the saint's day feast: luke-warm black coffee and cigarettes.

#2 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 01:03 PM:

...Or hot tea and marshmallows. The big square marshmallows you get at Whole Foods.

Thanks for the reading material! "Dark Night of the Soul" is one of my favorite poems, but I knew very little about its author.

#3 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 01:28 PM:

Better than St. John the Apostle or St. Francis de Sales, who are the ones I can find!
On the other hand, I like the patron saint of the Internet: St. Isidore of Seville. The Vatican's Observation Service for Internet (yes, Virginia, there really seems to be such a thing)chose him because of the Etymologiae. I think that's cool.

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 01:30 PM:

Emma, click on the "opinion" link.

#5 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 01:38 PM:

Those of you who don't already know about it might like to know about Loreena McKennitt's recording of a version of "The Dark Night of the Soul" on her album _The Mask and Mirror._

#6 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 02:03 PM:

Well, that's what happens when I write a post between blood tests...I should have known you would have picked up on that already.

#7 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 03:28 PM:

The Australian Discalced Carmelites have the text of the best current English translation of both the poem The Dark Night as well as St' John's book length commentary on it. (In fact, it looks like they have all of Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh's translations and commentary on line. Good thing, my copy of the ICS complete works of Jt. John is getting rather beat up.)

#8 ::: Dan Lewis ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 03:32 PM:

John Michael Talbot made The Lover and the Beloved, an all-acoustic album, with lyrics mostly from St. John of the Cross. You can listen at the link (RealAudio). I liked Living Flame of Love best of the ones that are up there, but Pass Through My Will, from a poem by Thomas Merton, is my favorite.

#9 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 03:41 PM:

Sarah S wrote:
Those of you who don't already know about it might like to know about Loreena McKennitt's recording of a version of "The Dark Night of the Soul" on her album _The Mask and Mirror._

The McKennitt song is beautiful. I have to confess, the sheer weight of explanation behind the poem discouraged me from trying to follow it deeper, but even on the surface level it's a wonderful love poem.

#10 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 03:44 PM:

Hhm. Last time Saints came up in discussion (or, at least, the time you linked to above, Teresa), there was some small discussion about Angels and Gustav Davidson's Dictionary of Angels. I've had that book for years and found it tremendously delightful.

So, question then: can anyone recommend a similarly delightful book about Saints? Not so much a collection of all of their vitae (as entertaining as those often are), nor an internet site, but a book with a few paragraphs about each one and their associations and notes for where their vitae might appear?

If so, that would be something I'd love to own.

Also, on a Saint-related note, are folks around here aware of the campaign to establish a Patron Saint of Handgunners? I stumbled across it the other day while researching something else.

#12 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 04:56 PM:

Since St. Barbara covers electronics, logic and artillery, I think she should be the patron saint of bloggers, no?

#13 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 04:56 PM:

Well, isn't St. Barbara already the patron saint of artillery? You can't have handguns and artillery in the same room without a fight starting.

I was in a role-playing campaign where there were Potions of Holy Water of St. Barbara floating around. Heh. "Begone, foul undead beast!" *BOOM*

#14 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 04:56 PM:

Oh, not to mention ivory towers...

#15 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 08:22 PM:

What I need at the moment is a patron saint of homemade Christmas card makers. Or possibly of colour inkjet printers or slightly misaligned A4 trimmers. Any suggestions? (Not helped by a simultaneous IM from one close friend with extraordinary and momentous personal news, and a phone call from a second close friend saying 'do you think there's any chance you could print us an extra 50 Christmas Cards because we've run out?')

#16 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 09:23 PM:

Alison, I'd say your closest match is St. Genesius, patron of printers, lawyers, epileptics, comedians, stenographers, converts, and torture victims.

#17 ::: Laurel Amberdine ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 09:25 PM:

Anyone interested in St. John of the Cross might want to listen to these programs by Fr. Thomas Dubay, originally aired on EWTN.

Claude, thanks for the link. My copy of Fr. Kavanaugh's complete translation is getting awful beat up too.

#18 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2004, 01:09 AM:

More on St Genesius, from a group I have some association with. Would this enthuse youse, or the opposite?

The Genesian Theatre Company was formed in 1944 ... The building which houses the Company dates from 1868. It served as both a church and a poor school until 1932 when it became the Kursaal Theatre, housing the Sydney Repertory Company. In 1938 it became the first Matthew Talbot Hostel [for homeless men]. Since 1954 it has been the home of the Genesian Theatre Company.
The Company took its name from Saint Genesius, the patron saint of actors.

#19 ::: aa ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2004, 09:25 AM:

If anyone's interested in checking out the poems in the original Spanish, they can be found here.

Also, San Juan de la Cruz is not to be confused with Sor Juana InÚs de la Cruz, a nun, who was also an excellent poet.

#20 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2004, 10:10 AM:

Does anyone know a patron saint for serious illness/tragedy hitting a particular group of people? It's all individual tragedies, btw, not group disaster. I could use the name of that saint.

#21 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2004, 11:15 AM:

St. Genesius, patron of printers, lawyers, epileptics, comedians, stenographers, converts, and torture victims.

Have I mentioned how saints sometimes remind me of Borges's Chinese taxonomy?

#22 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2004, 02:28 PM:

Elizabeth, the patroness for those suffering disasters in general, is Genevive, and for natural disasters is Agatha.

If that does not fit, there are whole lists of patrons against the plague or epidemics.

#23 ::: Steve Burnett ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 01:41 PM:


John J. Delaney's _Dictionary of Saints_ (Doubleday, 1980) is most a collection of vitae, but has lists in the back for "The Saints as Patrons and Intercessors", "Saints of Places and Countries", symbols in art, and some nice timelines and calendars in the back. I didn't find it as fun a read as the Angels book you cite, but it's the best hardcopy resource that I know of that fits what I think you're asking for.

J.N.D. Kelly's _Oxford Dictionary of Popes_ is relevant on a similar topic, at least up through 1986-8 when my copy was published.

Hope this helps.

#24 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 10:07 PM:

Hello, I'll stir things up.

As a freshman in college, with limited Spanish and boundless naivete, I enjoyed the Cantico Espiritual (Spiritual Canticle). In grad school, with much more Spanish and much less naivete, I found it embarrassingly homoerotic. St. John later wrote commentaries explaining how all the images were spiritual, but to me that is (conscious or unconscious) spin. The last two lines are "and the cavalry, at the sight of the waters, descended."

Calling Dr. Freud.

#25 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2004, 01:41 AM:

No news there, Brenda; eroticism and religious transports only live a door or two away from each other.

I'm fond of the story of the Frenchman who, on first seeing Bernini's famous statue of St. Teresa, said "If that is divine love, I have experienced it often."

#26 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 03:41 AM:

Yup, St. Genesius. All the cards are printed (and nearly all posted) now, all the presents are bought (except the one for the dog), much of the logistically trickier elements of Christmas have worked out ok, and so on... but there are still mosquitos nesting in my blog. Upgrading Movable Type is on my List Of Things To Do During My Holiday, yes.

#27 ::: DM SHERWOOD ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2005, 11:41 AM:

I think I like the guy. O'course we were to busy to learn about him at school .we were learning about reaL movers and shaker like Henry VIII .The guy we reconsiled Satyresis with his nurses doctrine that you gotta marry them first

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