Sunday, September 01, 2013

The Fourteen Holy Helpers

A bit of Catholicism I wasn't familiar with.

I've been re-reading the Brother Cadfael mysteries by Ellis Peters, one of which is titled The Leper of St. Giles. Today happens to be the feast day of St. Giles (as I am informed in a daily Saint that the Franciscans email to me) and, reading about Giles, I discovered he was one of the "Fourteen Holy Helpers." This is a group of saints who, rather than assist in general terms with the state of one's soul, seem to instead focus on helping with particular parts of the human body; St. Agathius against headaches, for example.

When I attended Catholic school as a boy one of the "fun" days in the year was the feast day of St. Blaise, where after the Mass, individuals were "blessed" with the protection of St. Blaise by having unlit candlesticks crossed under one's throat. Blaise is another of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

Down at the bottom of the Wikipedia article linked above is a truly charming bedtime prayer invoking the Fourteen:

When at night I go to sleep,
Fourteen angels watch do keep,
Two my head are guarding,
Two my feet are guiding;
Two upon my right hand,
Two upon my left hand.
Two who warmly cover
Two who o'er me hover,
Two to whom 'tis given
To guide my steps to heaven.

I think I'll write that one down and add it to my own bedtime prayer.