Thursday, October 9, 2008

Saint Denis & companions

Today is the day of Saint Denis & Companions. I admit it was the companions that piqued my interest. I was of course immediately diverted by the legend of Saint Denis carrying his own head back into a village north of Paris following his martyrdom. The idea of a of headless body roaming the countryside had such a 'chicken' quality I needed to know more.

In the usual way of these things, the stories of several men have morphed together, been well-seasoned with fiction & mixed in a great big bowl of time. The general gist seems to be Denis founded a church, converted many with the zeal of his preaching, his success made others jealous & so he was martyred in a manner that removed his head from his body.

I admit, under ordinary circumstances I would have lost interest, but I remained intrigued by the Companions. While named right there in the day, the index does not discuss the companions at all. My mind wandered to other companions.

The first famous companion I thought of was salt-sucking creature in the original Star Trek. I discarded this as unlikely; everyone knows the salt vampyre inhabits another galaxy & besides it probably could have convinced the jealous priests/whomever to keep it around. Also, it is companions, plural. How many salt vampyres are we supposed to accept?

& so my mind wandered to other companions. Maybe they were not human & that is why they were not named. But then Saint Francis of Assisi's day (last week-end as it happens) would doubtless have included animals, too.

Or maybe they were somehow expunged. Something was undesirable about these companions. Maybe they included his wife & children. The cult of Denis dates back to before the period that the church had acquired considerable wealth. Part of how the church hung on to property was preventing priests from marrying & entailing land & goods to their descendants.

A more undesirable companion to the 21st century church might be a homosexual lover, but they have not been very thorough about removing same-sex references to other saints. Saint Aelred has been out of the closet since before closets were invented. The more widely known Saint Sebastian is considered the patron of homosexuals & has been for a very long time, whether the church put this on his letterhead or not.

Besides, the church's behavior has always been more lenient toward the homosexual priest than the priest who wants to marry a woman & raise a famiy, so it is very hard to imagine that this is the reason for the Companions anonymity.

It took a bit of digging (!) but I eventually found that the Companions are the two other men martyred with him & buried in the same grave. It was so passive, I wondered that they were included in the day at all. It seemed so small, in the grand scheme of things & so ordinary, like the ridiculous three-on-a-match superstition.

Then I remembered Henry Hector Munro & his famous last words. Just before being killed by a WWI sniper, he said "Put that damned cigarette out". & then another mind, another voice was gone.

No comments:

Post a Comment