Sister Mary Martha, I am not a Catholic but am an avid follower of your blog-- your common sense, excellent reasoning, humor, compassion-- OK, I'll save the rest 'til they ask me to give your eulogy-- but anyway, I am so often uplifted and thought-provoked by what you say. At any rate: what's up with holy helpers? As in: who are they, why, etc? I know that there's always The Google, but your explanations are most often concise and informative, not to mention (as far as I know) accurate.
Aren't you nice? Thank you for all the lovely compliments!
This is an excellent place to start a list for our times! What are the Fourteen Holy Helpers? I wish I could tag the picture above like they do on Facebook.
I hope I can also iron out the reason the Fourteen Holy Helpers were locked in the cloak room along with terms like "cloak room".
The Holy Helpers were a list of saints that were invoked together starting in the 14th century in Germany. The list of saints were asked for their collective intercession because of the Black Plague. Here is the list:
St. Barbara......against sudden death
St. Blaise.........against throat problems and for the protection of domestic animals
St. Catherine of Alexandria........against sudden death
St. Christopher....against the Black Plague and for safe travel
St. Cyriacus.........against temptation on the deathbed
St. Denis..............against headache (that's him holding his own head in the picture above)
St. Erasmus..........against intestinal maladies
St. George.............protection of domestic animals
St. Giles.................against the Plague and for a good confession, cripples, beggars and blacksmiths
St. Margaret of Antioch.....safe childbirth
St. Pantaleon........against cancer and TB and for doctors
St. Vitus...............against epilepsy and for the protection of domestic animals
That would be a mouthful, so everyone just prayed to the Fourteen Holy Helpers. The devotion spread like the plague.
Wait..I meant..it spread the way the plague did. No...I mean, because the plague was spreading the devotion spread.
They had their own feast day on August 8th. At one point the devotion had become so popular that a plenary indulgence was attached. That is no longer the case. And the feast day is no more, as well.
Now we zoom from the 14th century to the 20th century, where we find that quite a few of these saints are not what they were cracked up to be. Meaning that we really don't know as much about them as we thought. St. Christopher is a great example. The Fourteen Holy Helpers are disbanded. They still each have their own individual feast days, although some of them didn't even have that for a while. St. Catherine of Alexandria lost her feast day for a while there, but now it's back. Good luck finding a St. Catherine of Alexandria medal, though. It annoys me. She appeared to St. Joan of Arc, for Heaven's sake!
That's pretty much it in a nutshell. I might add that all those saints for the protection of domestic animals were on there because animals also got the Black Plague.
So in order to come up with a new list of saints, we'll first have to come up with a list of modern problems for which we need Heavenly prayers.
Two spring to mind for me: our violent world and cancer. What do you think?