Patron Saint for the Impatient

Saint Expedite: A Real Saint?

Some would claim, in answer to the above question, that Saint Expedite really did not exist. In reply to that claim, we need to point out that he is indeed found in the Roman Martyrology, his feast day celebrated on April 19. He died very early in the fourth century during the persecution of Diocletian, along with several others, in what is now Malatya, Turkey. The long-held belief is that these martyrs were Armenians who were slain because they had become Christians. Saint Expedite himself was a Roman Centurion. Sadly, he was one of the saints purged from the calendar after Vatican II, along with Saint Christopher and Saint Philomena, two who are precious to many Catholics. However, those who hold him dear don’t seem to care about that and remain devoted to him.

For more than a millennium, Saint Expedite remained obscure, so little was known about him. During the Middle Ages, he was venerated in the area of Turin, Italy. Then, during the seventeenth and eighteenth century, his cult began to blossom in Germany and Sicily, and his popularity grew elsewhere too. There are at least two stories that are very similar — one taking place in France and the other in New Orleans. It seems that, in the French version, a case containing the relics of a saint was delivered to a convent in Paris. The case was marked “expedite.” The good sisters, being familiar with the Martyrology, assumed the relics inside were those of the early martyr. In the New Orleans version, several cases of statues were delivered to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. The good sisters there had ordered the statues to grace the church, which was newly built. One of the cases, again, marked “expedite,” contained the statue of a saint whose identity was mysterious. The dear sisters assumed him to be the saint of that name (instead of assuming that the word stamped on the outside actually meant “hurry this package along”). Saint Expedite stands today in that same church on Rampart Street in the Crescent City, which, incidentally, is the oldest standing church building in the city. It dates from 1826 when it was built as a funeral chapel for yellow fever victims.

An Interesting Depiction

Our saint’s statue stands dressed as a Roman soldier, his left hand holding a palm leaf — the symbol of martyrdom — while his right hand is raised high and holds a cross bearing the word hodie (today). His left foot is stomping on a crow which carries a ribbon in its mouth with the word cras (tomorrow) written on it. The symbolism is clear: when the soldier was presented with the opportunity to become Christian, the devil in the form of the crow, appeared and told him to wait until tomorrow. Saint Expedite, in reply, stomped the crow to death and shouted “Today, I will become a Christian.” Thus, it is expeditious to become a Christian today rather than wait until tomorrow, for by then you could be dead and have forfeited your chance at salvation. Whether the story is true or not, it served as a good lesson in the importance of declaring and accepting the Christian Faith.

Saint Expedite Is Adopted

It is well-known that several Catholic saints, including the Virgin Mary herself, have been adopted by believers in fetish-like cult religions, especially Haitian Voodoo, and some other African tribal fetishes that became established in the Caribbean islands. Santeria comes to mind, which became popular in Cuba. There is also the practice of the African/American magical tradition of Hoodoo, found in some parts of the Southern United States, particularly New Orleans, in which African deities, good and evil, are merged with a veneer of Catholicism. With the practitioners of Santeria in Cuba, Saints Barbara, Lazarus, Peter, Anthony, and the Virgin of Charity (the Patroness of Cuba) are superstitiously venerated. They are in reality African deities made legitimate, so to speak, by being represented as Catholic saints. This practice stems from the time of the slave trade in the Caribbean. Many of the slaves who were baptized refused to give up their native beliefs, and to make them more acceptable to the local Christians, they adopted Catholic saints’ names for their primitive spirits.

So it is with Saint Expedite. In New Orleans, among adherents of the Hoodoo magic, Saint Expedite represents to these practitioners, Baron Samedi, actually an evil spirit of the underworld. Followers of Haitian Voodoo venerate him as representing Baron Lakwa, also an evil spirit. The followers of these dark cults used Catholic saints to disguise their mysterious and occult beliefs and to give their ceremonies an air of legitimacy.

The Strange Case of Reunion Island

Our saint’s cult also exists on a tiny remote island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Madagascar. Reunion Island, a French possession, has an unusual mixture of folks — white Europeans, Indians, Africans, Chinese, and Vietnamese — making up its small population. Roadside altars to Saint Expedite, always painted red, are found in great numbers. He seems here to be revered by Christians, animists, Buddhists, and Hindus as the spirit to appeal to when one wants a thing done in a hurry. A bizarre feature of the saint’s Devotees in Reunion has them decapitating the statues of the saint if he does not come across with their favors quickly enough! It seems that no one wants to be seen venerating Saint Expedite at these roadside altars; it is rare to spot someone during the day, but the altars are well tended and there are always petitions being left at them.

Veneration in Chile

San Expedito’s veneration in the South American country of Chile is more Catholic. There is no syncretism about it and his adherents are true Christians. Devotion to him in Chile centers around the coastal city of Vina del Mar, popular because of its beach on the Pacific. It seems that a pious woman visiting the city, who had great devotion to the saint, wanted to build a small church there in his honor. When she petitioned the local Church authorities for permission, it was rejected. However, she and her friends prayed to Saint Expedite for acceptance, and the local authorities relented and had the church built.

Patron of Computer Nerds?

Because of our saint’s association with granting favors hurriedly, some have jokingly suggested that he is the perfect patron for computer enthusiasts. Our technological society has become so dependent upon finding information fast thatthis may seem an appropriate association. No doubt the real Saint Expedite would be totally surprised at some of the modern reasons for seeking his favors. He was in a hurry to save his soul; his focus was on what is important in this life — getting to the right place in the next.

Saint Expedite, pray for us!

  • Missy

    Thank you Eleonore,
    I always learn a lot I did not know from your well written and well researched articles.
    They are more than a sound byte and well worth the time spent in reading them.

  • Our recently deceased Sr. Virginia Mary found a holy card for St. Expeditus and immediately he became her heavenly friend and intercessor as she begged him to help her get to heaven SOON! She would really give him an earful when day after day she was still here! She finally went home to God on March 17th…she was not Irish but Polish! :-)

  • May Sr. Virginia Mary live in eternity! Thank you for sharing the story, Sr. Mary Catharine.

  • Eleonore

    Dear Missy, Thanks for the kind words. This saint has a connection to my home town, New Orleans, and that always piques my interest. It was fun research project!

    Dear Sister Mary Catharine, No doubt both Saint Expedite and Saint Patrick greeted Sister Virginia Mary when she happily entered their company. May she rest in peace. Thank you.

  • sarah

    Dear Eleanor,

    Thank you so much for your article! I loved reading it. Can you tell me where the statue in that picture is located?

  • Willel

    Dear Sarah,  I am sure that is the statue that is in Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in New Orleans.  I have not been in that church in MANY years, maybe since my college days.  I do know that it suffered damage in Katrina, as so much of my home city did.  No doubt, it has either been restored oris undergoing restoration.  New Orleans Catholics love their landmarks!  I will try to find out and let you know.  God bless you. Eleonore

  • Willel

    Hello again to Sarah,  I called the pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in New Orleans.  He kindly directed me to http://www.judeshrine.com.  There are photos of all the statues in the church on the website.  You will see that the statue in OL Guadalupe Church is definitely NOT the same as the one depicted on this website.  Since the saint’s name is in Spanish (San Expedito) on our site, my guess is that it is in Chile where there is devotion to him.  I am further checking with the Brother who finds the photographs, but he is unavailable this week.  If I am able to discover an answer to your question, I will certainly post it here.  Many thanks for your intrest.  Eleonore 

  • sarah

    Thank you so much for your inquiries, Eleanor!

    ~Sarah

  • aguilar

    How come I never heard of this saint Im catholic and up until now I never heard of this saint? Can u tell me more about him and the history behind his death so long ago Its fascinating to me.

  • You may find out more about him here: https://saintexpedite.org/ and here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expeditus .

    I hope this helps.

  • Eric Meyerhuber

    Hello dear Reader:

    Will you ask a religious there please: Is lighting a candle next to a glass of water, a valid way to pray to St. Expedite? Also to offer fresh flowers and pound cake to the saint after prayers are answered: Are they valid ways to honor him?

    The below prayer is from:

    https://saintexpedite.org/prayers.html

    For quick help…

    Pray to Saint Expedite

    Saint Expedite, you lay in rest.

    I come to you and ask that this wish be granted.

    ____________ (Clearly express what you want, and ask him to

    find a way to get it to you.)

    Expedite now what I ask of you.

    Expedite now what I want of you, this very second.

    Don’t waste another day.

    Grant me what I ask for.

    I know your power, I know you because of your work.

    I know you can help me.

    Do this for me and I will spread your name with love and honor

    so that it will be invoked again and again.

    Expedite this wish with speed, love, honor, and goodness.

    Glory to you, Saint Expedite!

    As you recite this prayer, light a candle to Saint Expedite next to a
    glass of water for the Saint. Recite daily until the request is granted,
    then be sure to give Saint Expedite a gift. Also place an ad in the
    newspaper thanking Saint Expedite, so that his name and glory will grow.

    Thanks in Advance,

    Eric Meyerhuber from Aberdeen, Maryland

  • Eleonore

    Hello, Eric, Thank you for sending the link to this interesting website. I have not seen it before. I would venture to guess that some of the practices – the water and the candle – are simply customs that grew in certain areas where devotion to Saint Expedite was popular. They certainly are not demanded by the Church in any way and seem simply to be local practices. My interest in this early saint was piqued by the New Orleans association as this is my home city.

  • Eric Meyerhuber

    Hi Eleonore, Thanks for your answer. Brother Andre Marie referenced this site in his post below and it is usually the first one listed in my internet searches for St. Expedite. Will you please refer my questions to some Roman Catholic authorities that are familiar with St. Expedite. I would like to know what they think of the above practices?

  • Eleonore

    I am afraid that I do not personally know any Roman Catholic authorities who are familiar with Saint Expedite. You might try calling Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in New Orleans. Just guessing, but I fear that the current “authorities” might find the whole belief in Saint Expedite bizarre. You could also contact the priest listed on the Saint Expedite website. I believe he is a Fraternity of Saint Peter priest (FSSP).

  • Eric Meyerhuber

    I hope I didn’t offend you. If I did I am sorry. I did ask a priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in New Orleans, but using a third-party. He said he thought praying in the above manner was an old superstition from voodoo, which is alarming for me, because I have prayed to St. Expedite in this manner. I did find some limited evidence on the Web to support his claim, but I would have to research it further. I will try to contact the FSSP priest. I am also aware of how narrow-minded theologians can be. Thanks for your time.

  • Eleonore

    Eric, I would not be too upset about the superstition comment. Read the article again about the practices in the island of Reunion. There are elements of voodoo and Christianity mixed in some cultures – Cuban, Haitian, New Orleans (google Marie Laveau), south Florida and others. You did not in the least offend me. Please let me know what you find out from the FSSP priest. It is an interesting topic, no? This is not REALLY theology, only religious practice.

  • RedNeoCon

    So is he an official Catholic saint?

  • Alyosha Karamazov

    He is listed in the Roman Martyrology for the entry on April 19: “At Melitine, in Armenia, the holy martyrs Hermogenes, Caius, Expeditus, Aristonicus, Rufus and Galatas, crowned on the same day.” So, yes.