Churches were constructed over the grave sites of martyrs, taking the saint in as the congregation’s own. Eventually saints moved beyond churches and to patron over more cultural terrain, from careers to countries to personal gain. The practice of assigning saints is not completely bureaucratized, and is largely based on aspects of their biographies or related miracles performed. Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus and now serves as the patron saint of funeral directors; Matthew collected taxes and is the patron of accountants. But what of the digital domain? Are the glowing screens and information highways of our current times any less deserving of such devotion?
Even the most secular of professions can still look up to some saints for inspiration, emulation, or a solid in with God above. In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, below are some contemporary contexts and the patron saints that best serve them. Amen.
Ferdinand III of Castile
Ah yes, the developer. Bilingualism doesn’t seem to cut it when it comes to these mavericks of the binary roadmap. Not only are they creating the software from scratch, but they’re responsible for its maintenance and continual improvement. Developers need a patron who is as multifaceted as their position, which necessitates people skills, programming skills and artistic ability all at the same time.
It’s just the job for Ferdinand III of Castile. Crowned at 18, he conquered both Cordoba and Sevilla, where he continued to rule in impressive form. The patron of engineering, his prowess in the field is evident in the numerous hospitals, churches and monasteries constructed during his reign, even building the University of Salamanca. This stress on education was matched by a reputation for justly distributing pardons. He created the building blocks, he brought them to the people, and then he lived with them in harmony– what other skills doth a developer adore?
Social media manager
Bernardino of Siena
It’s hard to be a brand these days, and it will take a skilled social media team if you expect any success. Often mistaken for compensated Facebookers, this position is actually controlling the marketing, editorial and popular opinion of anything it touches, placing it firmly in the power seat. It will take a strong saint to help you wade those dark waters in your Twitter canoe, and we’ve got just the Bernardino for you. Originally from Siena, he started life as a caretaker for the sick, eventually becoming a priest. Known for a hoarse and quiet voice, he chose to defy the future his throat had fated him and take his show on the road. His sermons were a sensation, as well as a symbol Bernardino crafted to represent Jesus, the focus of his devotion. Using simply IHS, the first three letters that spell Jesus in Greek, the logo set the bar for all guerilla marketing to come, spreading throughout perishes and popping up on buildings eons before Banksy.
The world of information technology has been paving the way for modern day patronage long before we attempted to harness the holiness. Think Office Space. Think Dilbert. Think of your overworked, underpaid, network-driving, server-accessing, video and web-conferencing guru who singlehandedly keeps your office running and whom you’ve never laid eyes on. IT, we salute you, and there’s someone we want you to meet. His name is Denis, and he’s got a headache. Literally, he is the patron saint of headaches, and we know you know how that feels. Beheaded around 250 AD, he picked up his head, walked six miles and preached about repentance the whole stroll. In Christianity, we call these people cephalophores. Like when you’re called into a board meeting because the CEO can’t get PowerPoint to work, and you explain how to right click and mutter ‘fucking idiot’ on your way out. Now envision muttering this for six miles. Feel better?
Saint Joseph of Cupertino
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s the remotely piloted aircraft that you just got for Christmas and have to fly in the shadows as the FAA continues to dictate the legalities of such ownership. From private companies to personal use to Top Gun freaks with a gadget fetish, drones are more popular than ever.
This would have been great news for Saint Joseph of Cupertino, who performed a few flying miracles of his own. Essentially considered a delinquent after flunking at shoemaking and moving back home at 18, Joseph found his stride and entered the priesthood. It was then that he and God began to converse, and there are over 50 accounts of the saint levitating and soaring over short distances as he did so, quickly rendering him the patron saint of air travel. He grew so famous for such feats that he was forced into hiding, much like the drones patiently awaiting their political reckoning.
Net Art is what happens when all those kids in high school you ostracized took their feelings out on DeviantArt and then grew up to become omnipotent curators of modern culture. They combine a creative sensibility with an intimate knowledge of how the web actually functions and a strong grasp of the approval matrix. From selling locked tacos on Etsy to feminist baiting of 4Chan trolls, they are also acquainted with the balance between patron and patriot, a struggle they share with Thomas the Apostle. You know the one. Thomas of Doubting Thomas fame after refusing to accept Christ’s claims that he was resurrected. In the process of dishing out the bible’s healthiest dose of skepticism, he was also building churches across India, spreading the word of his based God and solidifying himself as patron saint of architecture. It’s not often we find a saint revered for a lack of faith, and this ability to fly his freak flag on top of some serious design clout certainly grants him grandfather status for the Net Artists we see today.
The definition of a Wikipedia Editor as defined by the Wikipedia entry “Wikipedia:Editor”: anyone who edits a page or pages as opposed to passively reading articles. The definition of a Wikipedia Editor as defined by everyone else on the planet: Why? It's a very important, and, almost always, a very pro bono mission. Anyone angelic enough to devote the unclaimed hours of their lives to picking up after trolls is in no need of assistance when it comes to communing with God. We give you a patron to keep you keeping on, just when you think you’ve reached your capacity for deleting “Sinbad is dead” from Sinbad’s bio. A housekeeper at 12, Zita stayed with the same family for 48 years, completing her duties between mass and… mass. She was so thorough in her commitment to her work and religion that the two morphed into one life purpose, which she fulfilled to the point of becoming the patron saint of cleanliness. Keep defending the internet’s open source encyclopedia from defilement, and perhaps you and Zita can clean house forever and ever on into eternity.
Saint Gemma Galgani
Have you ever visited a website? What did you see? Did you click around or leave immediately? If you hung out for a while, you have a UX Designer to thank. They are the Michelangelos of functionality, and they might be the only citizens qualified to settle the whole red pill-blue pill debate. Anyone employed as the missing link between human and machine is tapping into some serious interactive phenomena, and Gemma Galgani knows exactly how you feel. After losing much of her family to tuberculosis and making her own miraculous recovery from spinal meningitis, Gemma began receiving messages from the divine, including stigmata. She is considered a mystic and the patron saint of pharmacy (her father Enrico supported all of his eight children in this trade), and her transference between this world and that of her creation parallels the divide between physical and virtual that we all must cross with a little guidance from our friends in UX.
Video game athlete
Teresa of Avila
It’s safe to assume that for most of the population, the words "video game" and "athlete" belong together only in reference to an avatar’s physical abilities within the game itself. In reality, a video game athlete has come to describe an ultra skilled class of players participating in gaming-as-sport (for prizes to the tune of five million dollars). We’re talking StarCraft champions with the analytical skills of Bobby Fischer and the natural focus of a fall semester’s worth of Adderall. Teresa of Avila would have opposed society’s slowly shifting acceptance of gaming culture, though she would have employed its logic. While the devout nun and dedicated scribe opted out of competition due to rules of the convent, she made clear in her Way of Perfection that there was still a lesson to be learned, “You may be sure that anyone who cannot set out the pieces in a game of chess will never be able to play well.” With those words she became the patron saint of the game and a role model for a generation whose headset coordination will surely trumps its hand-eye.
INTRODUCTION SOURCES: Thomas Groome, Chair of the Department of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry at Boston College. Dr. Marianne Delaporte, Chair of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Notre Dame de Namur University.