It may strike many Catholics as odd, improper, even irreverent, that there would be a patron saint of hangovers. We know from personal experience that through the prayers of the saints we are healed of serious ailments, protected in our travels, find stuff we’ve lost, and are granted a host of other graces. Why, then, would any saint get tangled up with people who don’t know when they’ve had enough?
It’s a fair question. But bear in mind that the saints are nothing if not sympathetic. Just as St. Dismas keeps an eye on thieves, St. Bibiana stands ready to nurse us through the occasional hangover. Before anyone gets the wrong idea, St. Bibiana did not have a drinking problem. It was a pun on the name of this fourth-century Roman martyr that made her the saint of the morning after: in Latin the word bibulus means to be fond of drinking.
There is no counting all the saints who are patrons of one thing or another. The tradition began in the early Middle Ages when every craft, every guild, and every profession wanted its own guardian saint. In most cases it is easy to see the connection. Saints Crispin and Crispinian made shoes, so they became the patron saints of cobblers. Legend says St. Luke painted a portrait of Our Lady and the Christ Child, so he became the patron saint of artists. But there are also situations where the principle works in reverse. Consider St. Sebastian, the handsome martyr who is always depicted stuck full of arrows. St. Sebastian is the patron saint of archers—not because he was an archer, but because he was the archers’ target.
Although the basic concept of the patron saint is rooted in centuries of tradition, it is something that is always keeping up with the times. St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest who was imprisoned and murdered in Auschwitz, is the patron of political prisoners. In 1980 Pope St. John Paul II formally proclaimed St. Francis of Assisi the patron of the environmental movement. And recently motorcyclists have adopted St. Columbanus as their patron saint. The way the bikers see it, the wandering Irish monk was a lot like them—he could not resist the call of the open road.
Then there is St. Joseph Cupertino (1603-1663), a Capuchin priest who according to the testimony of dozens of reliable eyewitnesses levitated and “flew” (or at least was propelled by some invisible power) through the air on at least 70 occasions over the course of 17 years. Astronauts who see a similarity between St. Joseph floating through the air and their own walks in outer space have adopted him as their patron.
In the early years of the eighteenth century Joseph’s cause for canonization was put forward and a priest named Prosper Lambertini was appointed to handle the case. Although one of the Church’s greatest experts on the saints, Lambertini cast a skeptical eye on reports of supernatural events, yet even he had to concede that the witnesses who gave testimony of Joseph’s levitations were of “unchallengeable integrity.” In 1753 Prosper Lambertini, now Pope Benedict XIV, declared Joseph of Cupertino “blessed.”
Full story at Crisis Magazine.
when i was in 2nd grade we used to attend a navy chapel on the base my father was assigned to. prominnently set to the right of the altar was a statue of st joseph cupertino holding a navy fighter jet. i have the feeling that everyone appreciated the sense of adoption and solidarity and care that was symbolized through this statue. it was pensacola naval air station and everyone assigned there was part of the aviation defense mission.
time setting”: late 1950’s cold war
We had a much revered patron saint for travelers but the tragic Vatican Council II demoted him to second class. His name was St. Christopher, and I still have his medal glued to my car.
Well he is still on all the four and five-way crosses, along with the Sacred Heart, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, St. Joseph and sometimes the Holy Spirit,. so I guess trying to demote him was just that — a good try.
A correction: Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal is on the four and five-way crosses, but I think it can be said that that medal also represents the Immaculate Conception.