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Saint Marcellus: Patron Saint of Vampire Hunters

It's been super busy for me lately in terms of PhD responsibilities, research, married life, and all that jazz...but I recently finished listening to "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" by Seth Grahame-Smith. It was surprisingly good for an audiobook. The narrator's voice worked, the plot was decent, and the historical tidbits of information were actually pretty good. With that said, I need to introduce you to the Patron Saint of Vampire Hunters

Once upon a time, a very infamous adulteress was buried in a sepulcher just outside of Paris (then called Lutetia). This woman, weighed down by the burden of her sinful life and lusting for more souls to ruin, could not rest in peace. Naturally, as such stories go, she became a vampire and soon preyed upon villagers living around the place in which her body was laid to remain at rest. Not one to let a murderous vampire woman wreak havoc upon Paris, claiming its citizens in order to satisfy her lust for blood and souls, the town's bishop decided to take matters into his own hands in order to protect his parish. The bishop entered the sepulcher and confronted the vampire that had been creating her own army undead. There are none alive today who can ever tell the entire story about the battle that must have ensued, but the bishop slayed the vampire and won the hearts of his flock. Soon, Paris was rid of the plague of undead that had once threatened its citizens and the Catholicism's Eldest Daughter now has the honor of being home to the remains of the Patron Saint of Vampire Hunters.....St. Marcellus of Paris.

Saint Marcellus going after a creepy looking dragon-bird (vampire?) with his bishop staff.
This statue can be found at Notre Dame Cathedral. (image credit: Diocese de Paris)
Now, I must tell you that this vampire hunting story was recorded 200 years after the death of Saint Marcellus...so it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. A BIG grain of salt. I mean, some say he fought a vampire. Some say he fought a dragon. There is even evidence that suggests he fought a creepy dragon-bird thing with his staff (as evidenced by the statue above). Still, it does make for a pretty good story...probably a better story than Saint George and his dragon...and certainly a story that deserves more artwork. I will have to add Saint Marcellus to "An Epic Book of Badass Catholic Saints for Kids" at some point in the future...whenever I end up finding the time to draw him staking the heart of a vampire woman with claws, grotesque features, and a tattered medieval gown.

Now for the most-likely-true version of the story...

Saint Marcellus is believed to come from a working class family from the modern-day village of St. Marceau (which was named after him at a later point) and was a very precocious young lad who favored modesty, meditation, and silence over the rambunctious nature of other boys his age. He began studying for the priesthood while a teenager and was the youngest priest in his ordination class. He studied under Prudentius, the bishop of Paris at the time...and was selected to take his place when the Prudentius passed away. He worked hard and was known as a humble man of great standing who not only helped fight off Barbarians that threatened to invade the city, but worked miracles too! There is no reason why this guy should have faded into obscurity by year 2014...and we have to bring him back. If naming him the patron saint of vampire hunters is how we bring him back from obscurity...then so be it.

The feast day of Saint Marcellus is November 1st and his relics are buried under the Cathedral of Notre Dame...which is pretty impressive for a saint that died around 430 AD. I say this because one would think that Notre Dame was once taken over anti-Catholics following the French revolution. I am actually surprised they didn't remove or destroy this saint's relics following their takeover of this cathedral. That, in and of itself, may be more remarkable than any slaying of vampires.

This has been your introduction to Saint Marcellus of Paris, a pretty awesome and not-so-well-known saint.

Pax Vobiscum

#ASHTAG

And so, with Ash Wednesday 2014...comes Lent 2014 and I have high hopes for this Lent season. High hopes as in I will be trying my best to pray more, be more charitable, improve my spiritual life, and...*gulp*... trust in God a lot more. To be frank, I put too much into my own hands and do not rely on Him as much as I should. I want to put more trust in Him and I will try to make this happen in the next 40 odd days. 
I know this is a day late and a dollar short...but here's my #ashtag I should have posted yesterday! I have to say...they got me good this year. +:-P

Catholic science geek indeed. Just look at that lab coat!
For more ashes...check out the USCCB's Facebook Ash Wednesday album.
Pax Vobiscum

A Thing Called Mercy

Hell is a mercy. I know the vast majority of people out there will disagree with me because we have all been taught to think of hell as a fiery place where souls are tortured for eternity because they were "bad" during their time on earth. However, this is a very simplified description of hell. Hell isn't just a fiery place where bad people go. It is far more than just an eternal punishment. It is also a place that is tailored to fit you. In a sense, it is a place that you create yourself with the life you live, the things you grow to accept, and the things you grow to reject. If you reject God in life, then hell allows you to remain separated from Him in eternity.

I think the Father Steven Scheier  in the video below may help you understand the idea of choosing hell best. This Father Scheier was involved in a head-on collision that should have killed him...and did kill him. This priest found himself in front of Christ, hearing an account of all that he had done in his life as a priest. He had slacked off on his duties, choosing comfort and easy ways through his ministry...always believing that he would have a chance at the end to turn his life around at the last minute. Well, that chance didn't come and he found himself sentenced to hell for eternity. The way he describes accepting this punishment is exactly the way I imagine many souls accepting their sentence for eternity when they stand before Christ's judgment. Deep down, I am sure that we all understand God's justice as well as the consequences of our actions whenever we chose the easy versus the right. In the end, those that deserve hell will accept and, like this priest mentions, will not consider making excuses for themselves or seeking a way out.

(For a more in depth version of the store, check out this clip of Father Scheier from a 1997 taping of Mother Angelica Live on EWTN)

Does that mean all atheists, agnostics, non-Catholics all go to hell? Absolutely not. There could very well be a bunch of atheists in purgatory now, challenging and, thus, perfecting the understanding of the lukewarm souls that ended up in purgatory. There could be agnostics who made it to heaven and are now exploring God with other souls that ended up in heaven. Atheists may not believe in God or may not be ready to believe in God, but that does not mean that they fully reject Him in the way that some who do believe in Him may reject Him. In my experience, quite a few atheists/agnostics/etc simply don't understand Him or don't realize that they already know him. Some of them may even know Him better than I do. 

Personally, I think atheists serve a great purpose on earth when it comes to the education of lukewarm souls that believe in God, but are on the fence when it comes to other essentials in faith. I know, because I used to be a lukewarm soul who started dating an agnostic and who made friends with all kinds of people on the agnostic/atheist spectrum. I don't think God ever intended for me to be one of those super-involved youth group, altar-serving, church choir Catholic chicks. He had other plans for me...and that is why he put me in very non-Catholic (and sometimes anti-Catholic) environments throughout my life. The people in these environments challenged me and I became a better Catholic for it. I also challenged them and, at the very least, they learned a little more about God and His mercy.

This Lent, I encourage you to consider your role in God's plan. Try to think about ways in which you are fulfilling (or avoiding) God's plans for you. Think about the decisions you are making in your everyday life. Ask yourself if there are any improvements or adjustments that you can make to ensure that you are one day worthy of standing before Christ and telling him that yes, you do deserve a place in heaven....and yes, you did all you could to lead others there too.

Pax Vobiscum