It’s been said that Catholics have a saint for virtually every situation, event or possibility. Some of the more unusual include a saint for fireworks, unattractive people and dysentery (Saints Barbara, Drogo and Smyrna in that order)! Without being disrespectful, it is hard to imagine there being a saint of hangovers, oversleeping or caterpillars, but yes they do exist. There is even a Patron Saint of Beer (St. Arnulf of Metz). On the cool but strange side of the spectrum, St. Hubert of Liege is the Patron Saint of the Fear of Werewolves, while St. Columbanus is the Patron Saint of Motorcyclists. I will leave it to another time to muse on how St. Isidore of Seville, who died in 636 AD, is the Patron Saint of the Internet!
For all of the more unusual saints there are of course those most widely embraced and understood, from St. Valentine to St. George, St. Francis of Assisi to St. Joan of Arc. It’s also fair to say that many saints are invariably connected to a particular culture, from St. Mary MacKillop in Australia, to St. Kateri Tekakwitha for the First Nations in Canada, to St. Patrick in Ireland.
One of the most popular events at St. Mary’s University in Calgary is our annual hosting of our September Ghost Tour, an event that opens the campus to the community, that re-enacts scenes from our history, and that helps to mark our anniversary. As a Catholic university I often field questions from the media about why we are celebrating Hallowe’en, and I am always at pains to point out that we are, in fact, celebrating the stories of the institution’s founding, and not the feast so popular in October.
As a child, however, I was always confused that Hallowe’en preceded All Saints’ Day and wondered how they were connected. Needless to say I eventually learned of the rich thread that linked All Hallows’ Eve (31 October), to All Saints’ or Hallowmas (1 November) to All Souls’ Day (2 November), and I grew to look forward to the celebrations that acknowledged the saints that have transformed our faith life throughout the ages. Despite this long tradition, it remains a mystery to me how some saints have come to represent their particular attributes. Perhaps it’s enough to know that whatever befalls us, the saints have us covered! And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to say a prayer to St. Francis de Sales, Patron Saint of writers and journalists.