August 11, 2023

Joyful Witness / Kimberly Pohovey

Just who are the saints of the summer? There are several

Kimberly PohoveyI was looking out over the vast ocean and having a conversation with my youngest son about his summer occupation as an ocean rescue lifeguard in Myrtle Beach, S.C. I try not to dwell on the potential dangers of his position, instead placing his protection in God’s hands. As he talked about dangerous rip tides, shark sightings and folks who drifted out too far and needed rescuing, I wondered to myself if there is a patron saint of the ocean to whom I could implore for his protection.

I absolutely love reading about the lives of the saints and their particular patronages. A quick Internet search revealed the Blessed Virgin Mary, or “Stella Maris” (Star of the Sea), as patron of all the seas. Interesting that her son calmed the sea while Mary protects people on it.

Even more specifically, I read that there is an actual patron saint of lifeguards—St. Christopher. We more famously know him as the saint of travelers, but it turns out he guards over lifeguards and surfers. I found no evidence that he “hung 10” himself, but the fact that he is also the patron against storms undoubtedly helps him keep both groups safe.

Of course, at this point, I was knee-deep down a rabbit hole of information on saints and found many of them have a connection to summer. There is a lesser-known saint who is the patron of water—St. Adjutor—who is also the patron of swimmers, boaters and drowning victims. Stories tell that he was captured by Muslims during the First Crusade. He escaped persecution by swimming all the way back to France. Legend says he was associated with water when he calmed a whirlpool by throwing holy water and the chains of his captivity into it and making the sign of the cross.

Anyone who has spent time fishing knows it can only help to say a prayer for plenty. Fishermen need look no further than the first two Apostles—two brothers named Simon Peter and Andrew, both patron saints of fishermen and “fishers of men.”

Ever experienced a bad sunburn from too much time in the sun?

St. Bartholomew is your guy. He was martyred by being skinned alive and is therefore the patron saint of skin issues. While he obviously can’t apply aloe himself, perhaps a prayer ahead of time will protect you from your next burn.

While I think this association is a bit of a stretch, apparently you need to call on St. Lawrence for your next backyard barbeque. He was put to death by being roasted alive on a gridiron. Legend has it that he joked with his executioners, saying, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side!” This crazy sense of humor led to him becoming the patron saint of cooking on a grill. Turn to St. Lawrence the next time you flip those burgers.

And then there’s the patron saint of my favorite summer pastime—gardening. The Irish St. Fiacre apparently only needed to drag his shovel against the ground to get his garden to sprout. I could definitely use some divine green-thumb inspiration from him, though I have to wonder how the saint is associated with both gardening and being the patron of hemorrhoids—perhaps too much exertion planting those vegetables.

Our next saint is known for being a real firecracker. When St. Barbara converted to Christianity, she refused to marry. Her father and the prefect of the city, who were furious with her, beat her and then shamed her by walking her through the city streets naked, before beheading her. The story goes that when both men returned home, they were struck by lightning. Understandably, St. Barbara was made the patron of all things that light the sky, including lightning, thunderstorms and, yes, fireworks!

Last, but not least, what would summer be without sunshine? Legend says St. Medardus was sheltered from the rain by a hovering eagle—which is how he is most commonly depicted. The legend continues that if it rains on his feast day—June 8—the next 40 days will be wet; if no rain, the next 40 will be good weather days. The next time you plan an outdoor activity, call on St. Medardus to bring the sunshine.

(Kimberly Pohovey is a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. She is the director of major and planned gifts for the archdiocese.) †

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