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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 11.12.10
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Saint nothin' like the real thing, baby

They really ought to time holidays better. I mean, you're still bouncing off the wall from the sugar high of Halloween and the next day you have to settle all the heck down for All Saints Day.

Not to mention the fact you've got the All Saints salmon to poach and the pious pies to bake, plus there's the Holy Water to procure, the relatives arriving for their ritual All Saints martyring, with their "holy this" and "holy that." It's a trying time (because those saints sure like their trials...).

For some reason, though, this year's All Saints Day had me thinking considerably more about saints than in the past. Maybe it's because I'm reaching middle age and beginning to ponder my own mortality and inevitable beatification.

Or maybe it's because I've just become a fan of Quebec's own Saint Brother André on Facebook. I'm also following him on Twitter. Thus far, the Miracle of the Tweet has been elusive.

Whatever the reason, I've been studying up on saints and the whole saintly lifestyle. Did you know, for example, that Brother André's original plan to celebrate St. Joseph was to market a candy bar consisting of chocolate, holy wafer and marshmallow. He called it St. Joseph's S'more-atory. He even patented a tag line for it: "A miracle in your mouth."

Historians now believe that Brother André's instructions to build a confectionery factory were thwarted by a series of chocolate stains on the blueprints. When the good brother saw that an oratory was being constructed instead, his words were, "Mon dieu, c'est gros."

Speaking of big, I recently learned of Saint Giacomo, whose miracle in 19h century Estonia was growing the big toe on his left foot to seventeen times its normal proportion. Why was this a miracle and not just kind of gross?

Because seven orphans and a rare Estonian grape hound found shelter on said toe during the Great Flood of 1876. Sadly, the Estonian grape hound later shrivelled up in the Great Dehydration of 1881 and the seven orphans all grew up to be civil servants. Saint Giacomo himself was later tried and convicted for obstructing traffic with his mammoth toe.

As the fates of saints go, 5-to-10 years for toe-related offences is pretty mild. Other saints have met their demise in truly gruesome ways. Saint Ridonculous of Padua, for example, was tied to a steak. It was a porterhouse steak -- a very slow death, 67 years in fact. He died surrounded by relatives, which is indeed a horrible end.

You may have noticed that the lives of saints are closely associated with food, and not just because I'm constantly hungry and should probably get that checked.

Saint Anklesore of Ascarpia, for example, was shish kabobed. Saint Trent of Tuscany was tenderized into submission, all the while giving glory to God and the benefits of bean curds. As horrific as it sounds, countless saints were fried in oil and then simmered for long periods in boiling liquid, giving rise to the expression, "Saints be braised."

It's ironic, then, that many saints are associated with feast days, not just because they were butchered like animals but because so many were aesthetes who eschewed food and other worldly pleasures. In fact, they were often persecuted for ostentatiously shunning food, making a public display of their fasting and drawing the attention of the authorities, which is why it's so important to eschew your food carefully.

There are feast days and then there are feast days.

One of my favourites is the Feast of Saint Regimon. He lived in 13th century Bruges and was just the nicest saint you ever met. I mean, saints by definition are pretty good eggs, but Saint Regimon was a cut above. He never said a harsh word in his life, not even when they tied him up in the market square and threw pretty good eggs at him. Rotten eggs too. And pointy things. His miracle was making everyone in his village be nice to everyone else, even the civil servants.

Today, the Feast Day of Saint Regimon is one of my favourites. And that's no mean feast.

Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through www.townships.ca. He can be reached at ross_murray@sympatico.ca.

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