Monday, November 29, 2010



Saint Expedite is the patron of those who hope for rapid solutions to problems, who wish to avoid or put an end to delays, and who want general financial success. His aid is also sought by those who wish to overcome procrastination as a personal bad habit, as well as by shop-keepers and sailors. His feast day is April 19.
Expedite is typically depicted as a young Roman centurion holding aloft a cross marked HODIE ("today" in Latin) and squashing a crow beneath his right foot. Out of the dying crow's mouth issues a word-ribbon, CRAS ("tomorrow" in Latin). Thus Expedite destroys a vague tomorrow in favour of a definite today.
There is a cute pun in what the crow says: CRAS CRAS CRAS is how Romans imitated the sound of crows (in English, this is CAW CAW CAW), thus crows and ravens are said to always be croaking about "tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow." Expedite, by stomping the crow, destroys the vice of procrastination (pro-CRAS-tination means putting things off until tomorrow).
When Latin was a common language, Saint Expedite saw service as a mnemonic aid in adjuring people to convert to Christianity. Priests indicated the image of the saint with his cross and crow to warn pagans not to put off until tomorrow the religious conversion that could be accomplished today, because they might not live until tomorrow and thus would die unshriven.
(As a side note, the fact that Latin crows and ravens say CRAS explains why Edgar Allan Poe had a raven -- rather than some other bird -- declaim "nevermore" in the poem "The Raven." The narrator asks when he will see his Lost Lenore again. If the raven spoke good Latin, as might be expected, he would croak CRAS -- "tomorrow" -- but he disappoints the grieving lover by croaking "nevermore" instead!)
Saint Expedite is well-known in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Latin America. In the United States, he is greatly revered in New Orleans, whence he came by way of Spain. (Most people think of New Orleans as French, but for forty years, from 1763 to 1803, it was a Spanish colony.)
There is an old, humourously apocryphal tale about the arrival of Saint Expedite in New Orleans: The story goes that in outfitting the Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the priests sent off to Spain for a large and beautiful statue of the Virgin, and many months later, by ship, they received TWO crates instead of one. They opened the first and it contained the statue of Mary, which they had commissioned, and then they turned to the unexpected second crate, which only bore the legend EXPEDITE on the outside. This they opened, to find the statue of a Roman centurion. In their simple ignorance, they mistook the shipping instructions -- EXPEDITE, meaning, "expedite this shipment" -- to be the name of a saint.

The story is both funny and miraculous, but it is not a true account of the origin of the image of Saint Expedite, for he can be found in other places than New Orleans, and there is no reason to think that the sculptors in Spain would have created such a figure unless asked to do so. Interestingly, as with the CRAS pun, once again, Saint Expedite is associated with word-play.
Candles burned for Saint Expedite are usually red. They may be dressed with Red Fast Luck Oil or Saint Expedite Oil. If you are working with a statue or holy card of the saint and a plain offertory candle, it is customary to place a glass of water next to the image of the saint, forming a triangle with the glass at the front left of the triangle, the candle at the middle rear, and the statue at the front right. If a glass-encased votive candle with the saint's image on it is used instead of a free-standing candle and a statue, the water glass is placed to the left of the candle and the two objects are simply side-by-side.
A good day to burn candles for Saint Expedite is Wednesday, the day of Mercury, the messenger god of the Romans. In fact, Expedite is not only syncretized with that ancient deity, he is symbolized by the metal quicksilver (liquid elemental Mercury), and is also associated with the African and Afro-Caribbean spiritual entities Elegua, Legba, Baron Samedi, Bonsu, and so forth, those being the messengers and tricksters in the Lukumi / Santeria, Voodoo / Vodoun, and Obeah pantheons.
When Saint Expedite grants your request, his statue, holy card, or empty candle-glass is given a gift of flowers or flowers and a slice of pound cake. (One man from New Orleans told me that it should be Sarah Lee brand pound cake, although i think home-made would do as well.) It is often said that you must never seek the aid of Expedite unless you are prepared to give this tribute after the work is done, or he will take back all the good he did for you, and more besides. This accords with Expedite's position as an analogue to the various African messenger-trickster spirits, and is not typical of mainstream Catholic teachings about the intercession of saints. Some people also recommend publishing his name in the paper if he comes through for you, a tradition that is more often associated with Saint Jude.
The constellation of ritual beliefs associated with supplications to Saint Expedite among African-American Catholics was succinctly summed up by an anonymous New Orleans informant whose instructions for working with the saint were recorded by the folklorist Harry M. Hyatt in the late 1930s:

The following documentation on Saint Expedite in New Orleans comes from "Hoodoo - Conjuration - Witchcraft - Rootwork," a 5-volume, 4766-page collection of folkloric material gathered by Harry Middleton Hyatt, primarily between 1935 and 1939.

Well, St. Espedee works very quickly. His light is a red light on a Wednesday. He's fo' close scrapes -- he's fo' quick money. But then there is a call behin' him. Somebody must go behin' St. Espedee. He takes unless yo' give him flowers. Yo' must give him flowers because if not, then someone out of the house will pass on.
[New Orleans, LA. Informant# not noted; E6:7-E19:3 = 2839-2852] {Vol. 2, Pg. 962}

Because Saint Expedite is largely a folk-saint, prayers to him come in several non-standard forms, ranging from generalities mentioning his martyrdom to more personal orations specifically invoking his ability to bring rapid results. Here are some sample prayers to this saint that i have collected over the years:


Our dear martyr and protector, Saint Expedite,
     You who know what is necessary and what is urgently needed
     I beg you to intercede before the Holy Trinity,
     That by your grace my request will be granted
     (State your petition)
     May i receive your blessings and favors.
     In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
If Saint Expedite grants your request, place fresh flowers beside his statue in your home or in the church.


I come before you, Saint Expedite, 
     To remedy economic problems in my work and my home.
     And to ask for your powerful support.
     Saint Expedite, protect my income,
     That i may obtain sufficient money for necessities,
     And tranquillity and joy will reign in my house.
     By your grace, Blessed Saint, 
     I request and pray that i will achieve my desire. 
     (State your petition)
     And i will give thanks for your glorious intercession.

     (Now promise to give Saint Expedite a specific offering 
     if your desire is granted.)

Be sure to provide the offering you promised if Saint Expedite grants your petition.


Saint Expedite, you lay in rest.
      I come to you and ask that 
         this wish be granted.
      (State your petition)
      Expedite now what i ask of you.
      Expedite now what i want of you, 
         this very second.
      Don't waste another day.
      Give me what i ask for.
      I know your power,
      I know you because of your work.
      I know you can do it.
      Do this for me and i'll
         spread your name with love and honor
         and cause your name to be invoked.
      Expedite this wish with speed, love,
         honor, and goodness.
      Glory to you, Saint Expedite!
As you recite this prayer, light a holy 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 fame will grow.


Saint Expedite, 
      Noble Roman youth, martyr,
      You who quickly brings things to pass,
      You who never delays,
      I come to you in need -- 
      (State your petition)
      Do this for me, Saint Expedite, 
      And when it is accomplished,
      I will as rapidly reply for my part
      With an offering to you.
      (State your vow or promise)
      Be quick, Saint Expedite!
      Grant my wish before your candle burns out, 
      And i will magnify your name.
As you say the prayer, light a glass-encased Saint Expedite candle (the kind with the saint's picture on it) next to a large glass tumbler of water for the Saint. Recite the prayer once a day for as long as the candle burns (usually several days) and when your request is granted, pour the water from the water-glass into the empty glass container that held the candle, and place fresh cut flowers in the candle glass, as if it were a vase. You may also offer a slice of pound cake. Then tell someone how Saint Expedite helped you, to spread his fame.

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