Saint Francis of Assisi is up for bid on eBay . Several of him, actually. There’s Saint Francis in terra cotta or hand-painted ceramic, and also a lovely and practical Saint Francis birdfeeder . And he’s not alone. All over the internet you can get same-day shipping of pretty much any saint you want. Medals, statues, pictures—just a click and a credit card away.
Maybe I’ll get myself one of those saints. Maybe Saint Lucy , a patron of writers. She might be a comfort, perched serenely on top of my computer monitor. Really, I wouldn’t mind her face peering down at me. I like that about being Catholic, getting to have all those famously holy people around. It was actually the impending anniversary of September 11 that got me thinking again about the saints. All the inevitable remembering is bound to inspire in me a new bout of sorrows and fear. I’m not sure I’ll know how to approach God with such a mess of worries. It doesn’t matter; the saints will always be there—cue the harp music and fluffy white clouds—dwelling in heaven, ready to carry my pleas closer to God.
Over the centuries, the powers in charge of such things have assigned each saint special areas of responsibility; even stockbrokers and pencil makers are not without spiritual helpers. So the saints have September 11 and its unhappy echoes and consequences easily covered. Saint Elizabeth of Portugal (look her up; she’s got a good story) is one of several saints we can invoke in times of war. She is known for having put an end to a family feud gone out of control; she rode onto the battlefield, between opposing armies, to personally stop a war between her husband and son.
Thanks in part to Hollywood and television miniseries, Joan of Arc, a patron saint of soldiers, is more or less known by just about everybody. Quite a number of other saints are also designated as patrons of soldiers. A favorite of mine is Saint George, loved since I picked up a George prayer card somewhere. There is just something about the way he slays that dragon. And when bioterrorism find its way into the limelight again and gets you lost in gruesome contemplation, you can turn to Matthias . He is the patron saint against smallpox.
9/11 will bring media retrospectives and heart-wrenching floods of images I’m not sure I want to see—though the most horrible have been stuck in my head for the past year anyway. When the rescue workers appear on your television screen, you might come up with a few words to bring to Saint Florian , a patron saint of firefighters. Or, if you’re worried about the families left behind, to one of the dozens of saints assigned to intercede on behalf of widows.
Maybe on September 11 I’ll stop by eBay and see if Saint Francis is still around. Besides being the patron saint of animals (hence the birdfeeder), he is also a patron saint of peace. Which is really what we’ll all be praying for anyway.