We all love stories of saints. In some traditions, we use other terms to describe these figures, but they’re basically men, women and in rare cases children who show heroic spiritual goodness — often in the face of great danger.
Texas-based Kathryn Mitchell Lucchese, who has a doctorate in cultural geography and has spent years working with school children, has just handed us all a tremendous gift. At her school, she began reading aloud a weekly story of a saint during a chapel service for students. In preparing these versions of the stories, she carefully edited for maximum dramatic impact and, in some cases, to soften the violent edge a bit for her young students’ ears. These tales became very popular. She did this year after year and now — in a great big paperback book by Morehouse Publishing, she offers her stories to all of us.
She organizes the book for Christian educators to use once a week in a school year that stretches from August to mid-June. She matches these saints nicely with their annual observances in the Christian liturgical calendar. For example, St. Nicholas falls in her early December readings just as St. Nick’s saint day falls each year on December 6. (Check out Carol Myers’ amazing St. Nicholas site if you want to know more about St. Nick himself.)
As a good educator and geographer, Lucchese even adds a couple of dozen maps to the back of her book, so you can show kids exactly where each saint lived.
Of course, as a parent myself, I can tell you this book shouldn’t be limited to classrooms. It’s great for parents to read aloud!
With that recommendation, let’s get down to today’s quiz. All of the saints in these 10 questions come from Lucchese’s book.
1.) Of course St. Nicholas is a patron saint of children, but what other two groups consider him their patron?
A.) Thieves and Moneylenders
B.) Bearded Men and Furriers
C.) Toymakers and Farmers
2.) St. Benedict is famous for developing a rule for other monks to follow, but he started his own spiritual practice in a particularly severe way. What was it?
A.) He climbed into a tree so high that followers could no longer see him and lived there in an eagle’s nest.
B.) He swam to an island in the Mediterranean Sea so uncharted that no sailor landed for many years.
C.) He lived in a cave so remote that someone had to lower food in a basket or he would have starved.
3.) St. Maughold was a pirate before St. Patrick urged him to repent. Part of Maughold’s repentance began with some punishment which involved his willingness to be chained and tossed into a Curragh (or Currach). So, what’s a Curragh?
A.) A cast-iron cage
B.) A boat
C.) A dungeon with floors just below the water level
4.) St. Elizabeth of Hungary once was a wealthy lady living in a beautiful castle, but a terrible fate befell her. Which of these things did she do that made everyday people love her.
A.) She rolled up her sleeves and went fishing to feed the poor.
B.) She lived with a flock of sheep and wove warm blankets for babies.
C.) She painted a mural of Eden in the town’s square.
5.) St. Cecilia was a martyr in Roman times, but her executioners sound a bit like the Marx Brothers. They tried to overheat her in a bathhouse, which didn’t work. They did finally execute her, according to traditional accounts, but not even that worked out the way they planned. Today, she’s a patron of music. Why?
A.) Angels sang around her in the bathhouse and drew curious Romans who saved her
B.) She was the emperor’s musician before she went public with her illegal Christian activism
C.) It took her three days to die and she apparently sang as she preached about Christianity with her dying beath
6.) St. Lucy was either a child or a very young woman when she was martyred by the Romans. Her December 13 feast day is especially popular in Scandinavia. In Sweden, children prepare breakfast and deliver it with what sign of Lucy?
A.) Wooden shoes that clatter and awake everyone to the good news of St. Lucy Day
B.) A holly branch with red berries tucked under one arm
C.) A wreath of candles on their heads
7.) St. Moses the Moor, sometimes called St. Moses the Black, became a famous early monk in Africa. How did he start life?
A.) As a bandit chief
B.) As a sea captain
C.) As pharaoh of Egypt
8.) The Venerable Bede certainly deserves to rank among the saints for his many accomplishments, including writing the best seller, “History of the English People.” He also is credited with popularizing a catchy little phase that eventually caught on all across Europe. What phrase?
A.) Veni, Vidi, Vici
B.) Anno Domini
C.) Via Dolorsa
9.) St. Aldhelm, a poet and scholar, was a clever man and 1,300 years after his death, he still is remembered for an unusual style of writing. What was it?
C.) Tongue Twisters
10.) Let’s return to St. Nicholas for our final question. Some popular traditions claim that St. Nick left behind a logo for a particular profession. What was it?
A.) The snake in a physician’s symbol
B.) Three gold balls for pawnbrokers
C.) The silver fish in an attorney’s symbol
OK, have you got your answers all set? In preparing this quiz, I can’t imagine that most readers will ace this quiz, but have fun with your best choices and, when you’re reading, please look below for …
1.) Believe it or not, the answer is A, thieves and moneylenders. To read a more in-depth account of Nicholas life and legacy, visit Carol Myers’ St. Nicholas site through the link above.
2.) C. Among his few friends were some crows that flew into his cave to visit him. That was a good thing, because one day someone tried to poison the food in his basket — and the crows saved him by grabbing and disposing of that lethal lunch.
3.) B. It’s a boat, but a particular kind of boat that was popular in those early centuries. In Maughold’s case, he agreed to let it take him wherever God’s winds and waves might flow. He wound up on the Isle of Man where he became an extremely popular bishop. These odd little boats were important in many saint stories from that era and, among other things, carried St. Columba to the isle of Iona.
4.) A. If you truly want a shot at sainthood, beyond the rather extreme track of martyrdom, then stick to the advice of the ancient prophets and devote yourself to the poor, widows, orphans, prisoners and strangers. That’s what St. Elizabeth of Hungary did.
5.) C. Yes, Cecilia delivered a three-day sermon — complete with sacred songs — as she lay dying. It wasn’t as terrible as it sounds. She apparently didn’t feel much pain. She knew she was dying and left her house to the church. (The bathhouse plot was bungled because the executioners had never heard of Scandinavia and didn’t realize that lots of hot steam actually makes for a great sauna.)
6.) C. Candles on the head! If you grew up in a Christian family and listened to parents read Christmas picture books, you likely enjoyed at least one book about Christmas around the world. Illustrators love to depict St. Lucy Day in Sweden. Except — it’s so impractical to drip wax and risk setting a child’s hair aflame that St. Lucy gear today usually involves battery-powered candles.
7.) A. He was an infamous bandit and his conversion to Christianity was stunning. He knew a lot about leading and motivating men, though, from his days leading thieves.
8.) B. Veni, vidi, vici is Julius Caesar’s line: I came, I saw, I conquered. Via Dolorsa is the Way of Suffering, traditionally seen as the way Jesus went to his death through Jerusalem. Bede was a historian and popularized a clever system for dating things that actually was developed a century earlier but didn’t catch on until popular writers like Bede began using it.
9.) B. Riddles, but trust me — they aren’t funny in modern translation.
10.) B. There are various versions of this story, but St. Nicholas apparently helped out a poor family with anonymously donated dowries for three daughters. Had he not provided these sacks or balls of gold, supposedly the girls would have been sold into slavery. Instead, they married and lived happily ever after. Now, precisely how pawnbrokers are supposed to model St. Nick’s selfless giving is a little unclear. One old joke about the three balls is that they really mean: “Two to one — you won’t get your stuff back.”
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