The Patron Saints of Shopkeeping

st.expediteNo – we haven’t made this up. Of course shopkeepers have a patron saint. In fact there are legions of us across the world, and so we actually have two saints looking after us. Would you like to meet them? Of course you would.

The first saint dude is a chap called Expeditus – but you can call him Saint Expedite if you’re in a hurry (obscure pun intended). He was a relatively unknown figure in history – a 4th Century (AD) Armenian soldier in the Roman army who converted to Christianity and was martyred by the Emperor Diocletian (on April 19th, which is now his saints day). On the eve of his conversion, medieval urban legend has him decrying the words of a crow, ‘Cras!’ (Tomorrow!) by squashing said bird underfoot (bit squishy we imagine) and retorting, “Hodie!” (Today!) – hence his popular depiction to the right.

A lot of fun was had in the 18th and 19th centuries over a wonderful misunderstanding: when the Catholic church took to dispatching relics to different and august institutions, various religious organisations received parcels marked ‘EXPEDITE’ (as in the French and general European term for ‘SEND QUICKLY’) and got themselves all excited thinking they’d gotten themselves some actual saint bones. Scepticism as to the merits of his sanctity ran so high that in the early 20th century there was a minor papal conspiracy to get him de-listed as a saint dude – but this only served to increase his popularity with the masses, and he has more or less cult status these days as he’s regarded as the lord of the fast buck. Many impoverished or gambling peeps (especially in South America for some reason) set up a shrine of sorts to him, offering a glass of water, some fresh flowers, a slice of pound cake (surely a pun) and a red candle. Who do? Voo doo. Right on.

Anyway, we will give him the benefit of the doubt. And some pound cake. Especially if it turns out that he looked more like this image than the traditional portrayal above (shh – don’t tell Mr. Shopkeeper).

The second cornershopkeeping saint is San Martin Caballero, another 4th century soldier boy who converted to the Early Church. This chap didn’t get into too much trouble however, and ended up as Bishop of Tours. A charming tale recounts how he passed a ragged beggar in the road one day. As the weather was a bit chilly, the soon-to-be-holy one cut his cloak in two and gave half to the beggar to keep warm: St. Martin is thus seen as the passing stranger who gives hope to those in need.

How does he end up as a shopkeeping hero? Well… every random passer-by has the potential to become a customer, help the shopkeeper in need (aka bored shopkeeper doing sudoku behind the counter) and boost their livelihood.

St. Martin’s saints day is November 11th.

So here’s the thing: shouldn’t we move to get April 19th and November 11th set up as shopkeepers’ holidays? Surely, if the banks can have hols, so can we. Furthermore (thinking aloud here: walk with us), if we’re a nation of shopkeepers, shouldn’t we have an annual yippee-kay-yay shopkeeping festival on one of those days? You know this makes sense. We’ll get a petition together….

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