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Friday, 28 July 2017

'Fourteen Holy Helpers'

In my Saint Andrew Daily Missal, 1952 edition, July 25 is the feast day of St James, Apostle, and St Christopher. The latter is described as one of the ‘Fourteen Auxiliary Saints’, also known as 'Fourteen Holy Helpers', who were particularly noted for the efficacy of their intercession.  They were often represented together, and in my Missal there is a striking engraving by Cramer, depicting St Christopher bearing the Child Jesus on his right shoulder, surrounded by the remaining thirteen Auxiliary Saints.

"The Fourteen Holy Helpers are a group of saints venerated together in Roman Catholicism because their intercession is believed to be particularly effective, especially against various diseases. This group of Nothelfer ("helpers in need") originated in the 14th century at first in the Rhineland, largely as a result of the epidemic (probably of bubonic plague) that became known as the Black Death.
It should be noted that seven of the saints are regarded as historical figures, (Blaise, Cyriacus, Erasmus, George, Giles, Pantaleon, and Vitus) while the others may only be legends (Agathius, Barbara, Catherine of Alexandria, Christopher, Denis, Eustace, Margaret of Antioch)."   (Wikipedia)

The ‘Fourteen Auxiliary Saints’ or 'Holy Helpers' each has their own symbol in religious art, commensurate with an incident during their life or their manner of death, and all but one - St Giles, died a martyr for their Catholic faith.
    Whether historical or legendary, it should be remembered that devotion to all these Saints existed over many centuries throughout Western and Orthodox tradition, and involved generations of holy men and women who practised their faith in accordance with the example and teaching of these 'Holy Helpers'. Many churches and religious institutions were dedicated to them, and many were chosen as Patron Saints for nations. Long may devotion to these 'Holy Helpers' continue, to the glory of God. 

                                 'St George' - Hans von Kulmbach c.1510 (att)

    Saint George, lived c280-303, a Roman soldier of Greek origin, who converted to Christianity resulting in his execution. His feast- day April 23; symbolised by the dragon he strikes down.   Invoked against herpetic diseases, and with St. Sebastian and St. Maurice, he is the patron of soldiers.
                                                                  'Saint Blaise'

St.Blaise, born 3rd century died 316, feast-day February 3. Bishop and martyr in Armenia. Symbolised by two crossed candles, also various animals.  He is invoked against diseases of the throat.

       'Martyrdom of St Elmo (Erasmus)'   -  by unknown Dutch painter c 1474

    Saint Erasmus, also known as Elmo, born 3rd century died 303 A.D. feast-day June 2. Bishop and martyr in Campagnae, Italy. Symbolised by entrails wound round a windlass.  He is invoked against diseases of the  stomach.  He is the patron of mariners and seamen.


                                                                'St Pantaleon'

    Saint Pantaleon,  lived 275-305 in Nicodemia, feast-day July 27; a physician and martyr. Symbolised by medicine box and sometimes nailed hands.  Invoked against consumption.  He is, with St Luke and SS. Cosmas and Damian, patron of medical men.

                            'Saint Vitus' from the Nuremberg Chronicle 1493

    Saint Vitus, lived c290-303, Sicily and Luciana, martyr, feast day June 15; symbolised by cross and animal.  Invoked against chorea (St Vitus dance), lethargy, the bite of venomous or mad beasts.

.                            'St Christopher with the Child Jesus' - Titian 1524
    Saint Christopher, lived and died in 3rd century in Asia Minor. Martyr, feast-day July 25. Symbolised as carrying the Child Jesus across a raging river. He is invoked in storms, tempests, plagues, and for the avoidance of accidents in travelling. 

    'Statue of St Denis, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris' (photo- 'the supermat')

    Saint Denis (Dionysius) 3rd century Martyr and Saint, Bishop of Paris, feast day October 9. Symbolised by holding his head in his hands after decapitation. Invoked for people possessed of devils.

                 'Saint Cyriacus, ordained deacon by Pope Marcellus' - Bartholomew Bruin 1532

    Saint Cyriacus, born 3rd century died 303. Roman nobleman who converted to Christianity and was martyred. Feast-day August 8. Symbolised by his deacon’s vestments. Invoked against diseases of the eye and diabolical possession.

                                                     'Saint Achatius' - stained glass

    Saint  Achatius, born Cappodocia late 3rd century, died 311, martyr. Roman soldier and convert. Feast-day May 8. Symbolised  by his crown of thorns. Invoked against headaches.

                'Saint Eustace' - from a 13th century English manuscript

    Saint Eustace, born 1st century died 118, Roman general who converted to Christianity, subsequently martyred. Feast-day September 20. Symbolised by stag and hunting equipment. Invoked for preservation from fire, eternal or temporal.

'                     'Saint Giles' (Aegidius) by Master of St Giles 1500

      Saint Giles (Aegidius), lived 650-710, Greek Christian hermit saint,founded an Abbey in south of France; feast-day September 1. Symbolised by his Benedictine cowl and his hind. Invoked against panic, epilepsy, madness, nocturnal  terrors.

     'Saint Margaret of Antioch' by Peter Candid (2nd half of 16th century)

     Saint Margaret of Antioch, born 289 died 304. Daughter of pagan priest, she converted to Christianity, but suffered martyrdom having refused to denounce her faith as a condition of marriage to the Roman governor; feast day July 20. Symbolised by the dragon she keeps in chains. Invoked by expectant mothers. 
    N.B. In 1969 the Catholic cult was suppressed by Pope Paul VI on the grounds of lack of historical credibility.(Wikipedia)


                  'Saint Barbara' (273-306) by Giovanni Boltrafio 1502
    Saint Barbara, lived mid 3rd century to early 4th century, in Nicomedia, Greece. She converted to Christianity, refused to renounce her faith, and as a result was imprisoned and killed by her father. Her feast-day is December 4. Symbolised by a tower in which she was imprisoned, and the ciborium surmounted by a sacred host.  Invoked against lightning and sudden death. Patron of miners and artillery men.

   'Saint Catherine of Alexandria' (287-305) by Carlo Crivelli 1470

St.Catherine of Alexandria, born 285 died 305. A Princess and scholar, she became a Christian around the age of 14 years, and as a result of her strong faith and eloquence converted many to follow her example, including the Emperor's wife, who as a result was subsequently executed by her husband. Catherine refused an offer of marriage to the Emperor and was tortured and martyred. Her feast day is November 25.                                            


"What is prayer?  It is a secure anchor for him who is in peril of shipwreck;  it is a treasury of immense wealth for him who is poor;  it is a most efficacious medicine for him who is sick; and it is a certain preservative for him who would keep himself well"

(thoughts from St Alphonsus for every day of the year-compiled by Rev C McNeiry C.SS.R.)

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