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Saint Expeditus with his typical iconographical attributes
|Honored in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Attributes||Depicted as a Roman soldier, holding a palm leaf in his left hand, and raising a cross with the word hodie (today) on it. His right foot is stepping on a crow, which is speaking the word "cras" (tomorrow).|
|Patronage||Republic of Molossia, emergencies, expeditious solutions, against procrastination, merchants, navigators, programmers, hackers|
Information concerning Saint Expeditus can be found only in martyrologies, so precise details about his existence cannot be obtained.
From the Geronimian Martyrology: April 18: "Romae Eleutheri episcopi et Anthiae matris eius et Parthenii, Caloceri, Fabii, Proculi, Apollonii, Fortunati, Crispini, Expediti, Mappalici, Victorini, Gagi." April 19: "In Arminia Militana civitate Hermogeni, Gagi, Expediti, Aristonici, Rufi, Galatae una die coronatorum."
Saint Expeditus is commemorated in the martyrology on April 18 and on April 19, but the first date seems to be a mistake (mistakes were very common in martyrologies). The only facts that seem to be certain concern the day, April 19, and the place, Melitene (now Malatya, Turkey), of his death; nothing can be said about the circumstances or the period of his martyrdom (it has been said that he died under Diocletian, but this is not substantiated).
Many theories try to deny the existence of Saint Expeditus. According to Delehaye, the word "Expeditus" is a misreading of "Elpidius"; another has stated that "Expeditus" is only an adjective referring to a person and not a personal name; others have stated that this adjective referred to Saint Minas. None of these theories have been substantiated, least of all those that identify Expeditus with another saint.
There are also many versions of another legend, according to which the name "Expeditus" is recent and derives from the writing "Spedito" on a box containing relics of an unknown saint.
The name "Expeditus" has certainly evoked puns, so he has become the saint of rapidity. At first, he was invoked for urgent causes; he has since become the patron of dealers, sailors, students, and examinees; he is also implored for success in lawsuits.
He is portrayed as a soldier (the Latin word "expeditus" was also the name of a category of soldiers) with a crow with the writing "cras" ("tomorrow") underfoot. In Germanic countries, the saint indicates a clock, whereas in the rest of the world (especially in recent representations) he has a cross with the writing "hodie" ("today") in his hand.
Further to the above, given that "Expeditus" is Latin for a soldier without marching pack, i.e. a soldier with light equipment, this saint, rather than being a myth, can be thought as an actual living person born of other name. He was a soldier, but his saintly devotion and martyrdom led to veneration and devotion by virtue of his "profession" – a soldier saint. He was a soldier first but one who became a saint by martyrdom to Jesus Christ. That he may not be venerated by his actual birth name does not in any way diminish the virtue of his martyrdom.
The veneration of this saint, contrary to what is usually said, is not recent. The cult was not initiated in Germany and Sicily in the seventeenth century: it was already developed in Turin in the Middle Ages. At the beginning of the twentieth century, certain bishops tried but failed to abolish the cult of Saint Expeditus.
Roman Catholic veneration
According to tradition, Saint Expeditus was a Roman centurion in Armenia who became a Christian and was beheaded during the Diocletian Persecution in 303 A.D. Holy tradition says that the day when he decided to become a Christian, the Devil took the form of a crow (a snake in some versions of the legend) and told him to defer his conversion until the next day, but Expeditus stamped on the bird and killed it, declaring, "I'll be a Christian today!"
Many stories commonly circulated about the saint's origin say the cultus of Expeditus began when a package marked expedite arrived with unidentified relics or statues. The recipients assumed that the statuary or relics belonged to a Saint Expeditus, and so veneration began. One of these stories is set in 1781, when a case containing the relics of a saint who was formerly buried in the Denfert-Rochereau catacombs of Paris arrived at a convent in the city. The senders had written expedite on the case, to ensure fast delivery of the remains. The nuns assumed that "Expedite" was the name of a martyr, prayed for his intercession, and when their prayers were answered, veneration spread rapidly through France and on to other Roman Catholic countries.
Another version of the story takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana. This story says that the chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe received a large shipment of statues of various saints, one case of which did not have an identifying label. However, the crate did say Expedite ("Expédit" in French), so the residents assumed that must be the saint's name. In New Orleans, Saint Expédit still figures prominently in the local creole folklore and is revered through amulets, flowers, candles, and intercessory prayers.
However, the legitimacy of these stories is easily disproved, since Expeditus appears in martyrologies in Italy before 1781. There is also a tradition in the past that Saint Expeditus be called upon to help settle overly long legal cases. His acta have not been reviewed and demoted by the Roman Catholic Church, and his feast of April 19 is not widely celebrated. However, Saint Expedite is venerated in Europe and strongly in Latin America. As an example, Brazil with 125 million Catholics does have ceremonies in São Paulo and crowds attending ceremonies to mark his April 19 feast day can reach in the hundreds of thousands.
Expeditus' typical depiction in artwork is as a young Roman centurion. The soldier is squashing a crow beneath his right foot and bearing a clock in early images. Later depictions have Expeditus holding a cross, inscribed with the Latin word hodie ("today"). A banderole with the word cras ("tomorrow" in Latin) emerges from the crow's mouth. Although the English language tends to mimic a crow's cry as "caw caw," Italian renders it as "cra cra.", and the ancient Romans rendered it as "cras cras".
Saint Expédit has a significant folk following on the French island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean. Stories about the origin of his veneration there follow the typical formula: a mysterious parcel marked with expedit arrived as an aid to instill pious virtues in the people. However, another version of the story maintains that Expédit acquired his name through his expeditious help in placing vengeful curses. Decapitated statues of the saint are often found, the defacement inflicted in anger for a request not carried out or in order to break an existing curse.
Road-side altars dedicated to Saint Expédit can be as small as a box containing a small statue of the saint, or as large as a hut, containing multiple statues, candles, and flowers. In all cases, these altars are painted a bright red. Also common are ex-votos thanking Saint Expédit for wishes granted and favors received.
In Réunion, the cult of Saint Expédit takes the form of a syncretic cult, mixing Roman Catholicism with other beliefs from Madagascar or India. Saint Expédit is a popular saint, revered by Reunionnais regardless of age or religion. It is difficult to say how many people visit the island's ubiquitous altars, since the worship of Saint Expédit is considered taboo - people do not generally visit the altars in the open. Even so, the altars are widespread on the island and obviously well-tended.
Himnos mil al glorioso Expedito,
A thousand hymns to glorious Expeditus,
Veneration in Chile is said to have begun when a devotee of Expeditus (or locally, San Expedito) brought an image of him to Viña del Mar, one of the most popular beach cities of Chile. She then petitioned some local priests for help to have a small church built for him. It is said that the idea was initially rejected by the local authorities, but the priests and the devout lady prayed to Expeditus, and in less than nine days they had the approval. Since then, the cult of San Expedito has become increasingly popular in Chile; from rich to poor, people pray novenas to him, and the shrine in the Reñaca sector of Viña is a rather popular pilgrimage site, especially during summer.
Voodoo and Hoodoo
In Haitian Vodou the image of St Expedite is used to represent Baron Lakwa a spirit associated with death, cemeteries, and sex. In New Orleans Voodoo the saint often represents Baron Samedi, the spirit of death or an aspect of the spirit of death.
The saint is also often invoked in the African-American magical tradition of Hoodoo, where it is customary to make an offering to him of a glass of water, a bunch of flowers and a pound cake. In this tradition his image is used in gambling charms and rituals believed to bring down curses on others. Adherents especially venerate the 4/6 domino tile.
The use of Catholic Saints as representations of spirits and deities in other worship practices extends beyond St. Expedite. Other saints syncretised into such worship include St. Patrick, St. Anthony of Padua and The Virgin Mary.
According to Maya Deren, St. Expedite is the representation of Mr. Entretoute who features as one of the prominent death spirits of the Ghede panetheon in her book, Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti.
- A booklet that contains a prayer and novena litany to the saint: Nelson, Thomas A. (2006). Catholic Prayers. TAN Books and Publishers. ISBN 0-89555-595-6.
- Jones, Terry. "Expeditus". Patron Saints Index. Retrieved 2007-12-05.
- Delio, Michelle (2004-11-10). "Patron Saint of the Nerds". Wired. Retrieved 2007-12-05.
- Zibart, Eve (2005-09-12). "Saints Alive! The Eternal Nawlins". The Washington Post (Washington D.C.). Retrieved 2010-03-08.
- Migliorini, Bruno; Tagliavini, Carlo; Fiorelli, Piero; Bórri, Tommaso Francesco (31 January 2008). "cra cra". Dizionario d'ortografia e di pronunzia (DOP) (in Italian). Rai Eri. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
- Harvey, Keri (2007-06-12). "Wild Island Reunion". Expressions magazine. Retrieved 2007-12-06.
- Vilagrán, Ángel Rodríguez. "San Expedito". El Ángel de la Web. Retrieved 2007-12-06. (Spanish)
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Expeditus.|
- San Expedito en Argentina (Spanish)
- Sant'Espedito di Melitene (Italian)
- Wall Street Journal article on Expeditus (registration required) (English)
- Republic of Molossia: documents veneration to Expeditus and explains his possible erroneous origin (English)
- Saint Expédit (article by the University of Réunion, focusing on the worship on Réunion Island) (French)
- La Página de San Expedito (Spanish)
- San Expedito en Chile (Spanish)
- San Expedito; Misión e historia