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Following All Saints' Day, your guide to improbable saints

Did you know there was a patron saint of parking?

  • May Kenny
  • International
  • November 2, 2012
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Marking All Saints Day, the Rev Richard Coles has been talking about his new book Lives of the Improbable Saints, of whom there are hundreds. I’m glad he has given some attention to the saint for parking spaces, Mother Cabrini.

St Francesca Cabrini was, I was once told in America, chosen as the patron saint of parking because she was a “hot-shot Italian-American momma”. In truth, she was a frail Italian schoolteacher, born in 1850 and who, having been refused entry to two established convents, enterprisingly started her own. She ministered to the needs of immigrants – and to prisoners at Sing Sing – and thus became the patron saint for immigrants. Quite how she took parking into her portfolio is not clear, but she is said to be reliable.

I disagree with Rev Coles, however, when he claims that St Anthony of Padua is “the patron saint of lost causes”: that honour goes to St Jude. Jude was a 1st century apostle, and has long been the intercessor “for those in desperate straits”, as we are all apt to be sometimes.

St Anthony is the saint for lost objects. The remedy for lost glasses, misplaced keys, missing wallets, was traditionally a prayer to Anthony, which might be even more efficacious if you promised you’d put a cash offering in his poor box. I have indeed found St Anthony often delivers, although there may also be a psychological explanation.

On the Today programme, Sarah Montague laughingly suggested that some of the “Improbable Saints” were bonkers cases: e.g. that most improbable infant saint, Rumwold of Buckingham. Rumwold was born in 662, spoke from birth, preached a sermon, and died at the age of three days. There are six English churches bearing his name, including an exquisite little gem at Bonnington, near Ashford in Kent.

As Rev Coles says, saints’ tales made sense to the magical realism of past times. Many of the girl saints made sense to me as a teenager, because their stories were often, Cinderella-like, about poor and unhappy young girls who overcame their difficulties and were an inspiration to others. One of my favourites was St Germaine, an impoverished Swiss simpleton who was mocked by everyone in her village, but whom God favoured with dazzling miracles. She was somewhat unlike our own [radical feminist] Germaine Greer, but remembered in the annals of saintly history just the same.

Full Story: Can’t find your keys? Then say a little prayer to St Anthony

Source: Telegraph
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