[Artemisia] The St. Crispin Bros.

Dr. C. M. Helm-Clark cat at rocks4brains.com
Fri Oct 28 01:28:43 CDT 2005

Jehane's post brings to mind some extremely tangential Argincourt 

There isn't just a St. Crispin, there are two of them and they are 
brothers, which is why there's a line in Henry V toward the end of the 
Band of Brothers monolog, "Crispin Crispianus" which actually cites 
both brothers.  The Saints Crispin and Crispinius (or Crispinian or 
Crispinianus) were brothers.  They were also both shoemakers and 
workers in leather.  They were born noble but had to flee from their 
home during the Diocletian Persecutions because they were Christians. 
They took up shoemaking as a trade after they fled.  So far so good.  
But there's an immediate problem here in that where you lived would 
affect the rest of the story.  There are three different independent 
St. Crispin and St. Crispinius traditions, including one where the 
Crispin story line gets mixed up with the story line of another 
shoemaker saint named Hugh.  It's a great huge confusing muddle!  In 
the English versions of the story, St. Crispin gets to marry a princess 
and everyone lives happily ever after, except for poor Crispinius who 
everybody forgets.  Despite the happy ending versions, the brothers are 
considered official martyrs in the 3 traditions that I know about.  Go 
figure - it's just how "lives of the saints" stories go sometimes.  
Mind you, I'm not intending here to dump on the church into which I was 
born, but some of those saint stories are pretty wild and just about 
every profession and every "cause" had/has its patron saint (e.g., 
hopeless situations, whose patron saint is Jude, which is why there are 
so many well-known St. Jude Hospitals in this world - and whenever my 
mother really wanted to take a good dig at me for never calling home 
when I was in grad school, she'd make sure I knew just how many candles 
to St. Jude she had lit in the last X weeks since the last phone 
call...).  So Crispin and his poor neglected brother are the patron 
saints of shoe and boot makers - and in England in the middle ages, it 
was generally a day off/holiday for the leather trades.

El Hermoso Dormiendo's favorite saint is the patron saint of mad dogs, 
whose name I can't remember at the moment. (Saint Sythny??? well, I 
guess it makes a little sense considering that he's welsh...)

And just in case you doubt just how comprehensive the patron saint 
business can be, I recently discovered that St. Lawrence, the patron 
saint of libraries and librarians, is also the patron saint of 
computers and washing machines.  Computers I can understand, but 
washing machines?!?!?

OT tangential digression about Catholic saints and people who ought to 
be  (ok, ok, I'm in Denver on business and I can't seem to sleep right 

On a slightly more serious note, my Godmother was received and 
decorated by both Pius VI and John-Paul II for all the good works she 
did to help asian refugees fleeing communist or totalitarian regimes.  
Perhaps back in the 2nd through 9th centuries, she would have been 
considered a saint.  She was an amazing woman and the scariest grade 
school teacher I ever had.  My brother called her "the three cold eyes 
of the orient," the two eyes in front and the one on the back of her 
head.  4th grade was one of the longest years of my life - I couldn't 
get away with anything!   I'd go home with Mrs. Wong after school too 
since my mom taught school in Norwich and didn't get home until after 4 
- and if it snowed, mom sometimes stayed in Norwich, in which case, 
we'd have dinner with the Wongs, to my undying humiliation over my 
inability to eat with chopsticks.  Mrs. Wong always made real chinese 
for dinner.  Her family ran the best-known chinese restaurant in 
Providence for years and years - so chinese food by Mrs. Wong was just 
awesome!  Her family did pretty well in the restaurant trade, started 
up a bunch of other successful businesses, and bought one of the 
Coolidge farms in Vermont where I spent several very magical summers 
and school vacations as a kid.  The fortunes of Mrs. Wong's family in 
the US is at least a non-ooky ending to a tragic story.  Some of her 
family managed to escape from China during one of the many persecutions 
of Chinese Christians of the 20th C.  Several others of her family were 
killed.  It's not easy being Catholic in a place like China.  Mrs. Wong 
and her mom and sisters got out and got lucky.  I didn't know this 
until I was in college, but Mrs. Wong spent a lot of time and effort 
helping other refugees, often but not always through the auspices of 
Catholic Charities. One of the best known Mrs. Wong stories is the time 
she took on a class to teach English to a new raft of Chinese refugees 
escaping Burma. Whoever put the class together didn't realize there are 
two Chinese languages.  Mrs. Wong spoke Mandarin and the new immigrants 
spoke the Singapore dialect of Cantonese. So she learned Cantonese.  
Later on, she learned vietnamese in order to help refugees after the 
fall of South Vietnam.  She lived her faith - not a lot of people do - 
because faith without works is dead (James 2:14)

So next time you pass a rack of votive candles, give some alms and 
light a candle for St. Ujoep, patron saint of Chinese Catholics, for 
intercession on behalf of Mrs. Wong's soul because she died two weeks 
ago.  I have no doubt that she died in a state a grace.


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