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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, June 01, 2009

And the horse she rode in on

Since it's Monday, I've decided to tackle a particularly difficult question.

Sister, I have a question. One of my confirmation students chose St. Anne...who is the patron saint of equestrians! Why, oh why, would the mother of Mary be patron saint of people who ride horses?

I hope it's not too late for her to switch to St. Sebastian or St. Paul or St. George or St. Martin de Caballeros (crack our your Spanish I folks!) or St. Ignatius Loyola or St. Joan of Arc or somebody up there who actually had something to do with one horse, any horse, at any time.

I have looked high and low for an answer and I cannot find one sentence anywhere that contains the word "horse" where St. Anne is concerned, save to to say that she is that patron saint of equestrians.

Often saints are patron saints of something by some sort of extrapolation. St. Sebastian, for example, is the patron saint of pin makers because he was shot full of arrows. I'll admit it's a stretch, but pin makers need a patron saint. They'd be better off with Anne, since she was a seamstress. We should swap out Anne for Sebastian, since Sebastian was a soldier and probably was around a lot of horses all the time. I'm certain he has horses or equestrians on his official list. He has a long list.

I digress.

The truth is, we don't even know what St. Anne's name really was, or if she ever sewed a stitch or ever even touched a horse in her life. St. Anne is not mentioned at all in the revealed Word of God known as the New Testament.

Everything we think about St. Anne is found in the Gospel of St. James, which is not the revealed Word of God at all. It was, in fact, officially tossed out of consideration of any kind in the 4th century at the Council of Nicaea. (think Nicene Creed)

Here is what we actually know about St. Anne: Mary had a mother who had a name.

Here is what we don't know about St. Anne: anything.

I believe I've talked about this before. But there is more to the story. The legend continues that Lazarus (back from the dead) and his two sisters and Mary Magdelene rowed to France (like Charles Bronson at the end of The Great Escape). It seems they had the remains of St. Anne with them. The remains were put in a nice crypt and everything was just fine until barbarians came along. So the bishop there took the remains and buried them so thoroughly that no one could ever find them for years and years, try as they might.

Charlamange decided to make a real effort to fine them but failed, until a blind, deaf and dumb boy suddenly showed them the way. It is quite a dramatic story, the boy being so agitated with his staff and everyone following him and having to dig and find one door and dig some more and find another, until they found a long bured door with a beautiful crypt that says, "Here lies the body of St. Anne the mother of the Virgin Mary." Or something to that effect.

She's not there anymore, because in true Catholic fashion, she has been sent, in pieces, to quite a number of places. Several places, I believe, claim to have her head, and they are not even on the same continent.

I imagine Charlamange road in on a horse. There's your horse.

Or....at some point in time, as forgotten as the location of that crypt, St. Anne performed a miracle that involved a horse or horsemen or women.

Or...and I have a terrible feeling this is what actually happened: Lady Godiva rode her horse through St. Anne's Square.


Not good.

Seriously, St. Martin de Caballeros didn't make the top of the list for your Confirmation student? He's always on a horse. Hence the name. He is also known as St. Martin de Tours. Did no one point her towards Joan of Arc? I pretty sure she rode a bit.


dre said...

Thank you, Sister!

The girl's grandmother was named Anne, so the name is meaningful to her for another reason as well. I think she looked up Anne, saw she was patron of equestrians, and thought, "That's perfect! Grammy's name, and horses too!" So I don't think she'll switch...but I'm glad to know I wasn't missing anything! It was a puzzlement to me...

Gina said...

Love this explanation. Your humor "makes it". Two thumbs up and a wink.

Donna. W said...

I have a horse, so I could use an equestrian saint.

You make me laugh so hard, I could almost become Catholic just for the laughs!

Anonymous said...

Sister, please give me some advice regarding a suggestion for a saint match up. I am sponsoring a young woman in RCIA, she is a former Seventh Day Adventist and was wondering if there are any saints that were former Adventists? I couldn't locate any, but I'm not as knowledgeable as you regarding these matters. Thank you for any help you can provide. ~Catherine

Anonymous said...

Sister, thanks for this delightful post on St. Anne being the patron saint of people who ride horses. My son has been wondering why quite a number of hippodromes and horse-racing tracks have been named "Santa Ana" or "Santa Anita." Now we have the explanation.

By the way, I came from a town in the Philippines that was a former Spanish mission. The statue of St. James the Great that we inherited from the Spaniards has the fisherman-Apostle dressed as a swashbuckling knight (caballero) on a horseback, driving away the Moslems.

I've been on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela and yes, they, too, have St. James depicted there on a horseback, brandishing his sword against a follower of Allah. Our tour guide refused an explanation, saying it wouldn't be politically correct.

BTW, my new granddaughter's name is Jamie Joan. I suppose I better give her a toy horse.

Anne said...

Hello Sister!
First of all, thank you for your blog. I always read it and it makes me laugh.. :)
And now to my point - I have a question for you. My sister is getting confirmed soon (~2 months time), but she's told me that she doesn't believe in God or anything. My parents want her to get confirmed, so she's just kinda going through the motions.. I don't think anything she's going to be taught in her preparation class is going to help change her mind/educate her about Catholicism, at least if they are still the same as when I did them, as I was literally taught nothing about the Catholic faith (not wishing to insult the lady running it, but I think that's true.. A lot of it was probably also down to my own immaturity though)... :/
Anyway - what can I do?
Should she not get confirmed at all? Will the confirmation even be valid if she doesn't believe in God etc? My parents want her to be confirmed so that 'she'll have something to come back to when she's older.'
One other thing - can you think of a good patron saint for her? I've suggested loads of names (e.g. Monica, because she prayed for her son's conversion for years, so I reckon she's a dab hand, Mary, because you may as well go straight to the top, and so on and so on..), but she's rejected them all...

Thank you sister! :)

bill7tx said...

In case you ever need a patron saint for unmarried men (bachelors), rejects, mental illness, mentally ill people, insanity, beggars, hobos, and the homeless, and in case you don't already know about him, here's Saint Benedict Joseph Labre.

I promise I will remember him the next time a homeless person hits me up for a handout. Quite a story.

Read about him at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benedict_Joseph_Labre

Anonymous said...

Sister, two things... One, my church has often hinted that there is more than one path to God. In fact, my pastor (I am Protestant - United Church of Christ) said that God could be found in all the major religions. How alarmed should I be?

Also, I have been questioning my choice of music lately, and I read a quote by Mother Angelica about evil music. What constitutes evil music, aside from the obviously satanic? Is it music that speaks of sin? Music that causes me to sin? I would appreciate your thoughts (and anyone else's) on this.

Thanks, Jennie

dre said...

Here's another very interesting saint, discovered by one of my confirmation candidates: St. Nicholas Owen. I can't possibly write about him briefly--his story is too amazing. You might want to read about it here:


I've learned a ton about different saints when kids do research to choose a saint!

Anonymous said...

Sister, I love your blog!
Is there a patron saint for persons who just haven't developed the self disciplin to handle money?

tlor said...

Dear Sister,
I am not Catholic, but here is a connection to St. Anne and horses -- all of which I have discovered in the past hour (and what led me to your blog).

I had a horse who died two years ago. She was an amazing and generous being who's final teaching to me was how to walk through that door to the infinite. Her name was Annie and she was a sublime teacher. You may think I'm crazy, but since Annie died, I have felt her at work in my life to get me another horse. This has now happened - two weeks ago I was given a beautiful young horse and he was a horse I had wanted for many years, even before Annie died.

We also got a horse named Rose for my daughter. What is St. Anne's symbol? It is a rose. As I am not Catholic, I have had no knowledge that these things might have any relation until about an hour ago when I looked up St. Anne medals because I wanted to have something to wear and honor Annie with. Imagine my surprise when St. Anne was named as a Patron Saint of Equestrians.

I don't pretend to know anything about anything, but perhaps St. Anne's protective energy is friendly to equestrians. I know my Annie's energy is still there and helping me.

Food for thought....

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am a confirmation student insisting upon having Saint Anne as my saint. Horses are my life, and I preferred to have a female Patron Saint of Horses. That is when I found St. Anne. The above comment made perfect sense to me, as I have had horses come and go. At first, I was dubious as to my decision of picking St. Anne as my Saint, but now I have decided to go with it. Thanks, tlor, for helping me pick my saint! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am also a confirmation student who has decided to choose St. Anne as my Saint. Although I am not around horses very much, I love them and plan to spend the rest of my life with them. I also did not understand how St. Anne had anything to do with horses, and this helps. Although it is too late for me to switch to a different name, I am happy with St. Anne, not only because she is the saint of equestrians, but also because 'Anne' is the middle name of quite a few close family members of mine and is special to me. Thank you for helping me understand this a little more, as I was a little confused on the relationship between the Mother of Mary and horses.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Sister. My 13-year-old son loves everything horses, and I was wondering about the name of the Santa Anita racetrack near us. Now I get it -- Anita means little Anne, and Anne is the patron saint of equestrians. By the way, I love your motto, "Life is tough, nuns are tougher." My son came up with one the other day that you might like. "When life gives you lemons -- cut them up and eat them. That'll show life how tough you are!"