CATHOLIC SAINTS & FOLK SAINTS
St. Expedite in New Orleans
St. Expedite is the go-to saint for fast solutions to problems of all kinds. He is petitioned for prompt solutions to business problems and has recently been coined the Patron Saint of Nerds due to his association with computer programmers and hackers. St. Expedite is also known as one of the lawyers of impossible causes, and as such, is petitioned for court cases and legal issues, as well. In France, his patronage focuses on youth and examinees as well as conflict resolution in relationships.
The origin of St. Expedite in New Orleans is related to the construction of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel, International Shrine of St Jude (Old Mortuary Chapel). And, depending on who you talk to will determine which version of the story you receive. Built in 1826 as a funeral chapel for victims of yellow fever, Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel was strategically constructed near St Louis Cemetery No. 1 so as to minimize the spread of disease throughout the Quarter. The unknown dead were moved through the mortuary's back door directly into the cemetery right across the street. According to one legend, in the early 1900s some priests sent off to Spain for a large statue of the Virgin Mary and months later, two crates arrived by ship. One crate contained the statue of Mary, which was expected. The other crate, however, had the word ESPEDITO stamped on the outside. When the priests opened the second crate, they found the statue of a saint depicted as a Roman Centurion. Apparently, the priests did not recognize the identity of the saint and mistook the stamp for the name of the saint. And so, the unidentified statue of the Roman Centurion has been known as St. Expedite ever since, or so the story goes.
But wait, there’s more.
Father Dan Cambria of the Divine Mercy Chapel in New Orleans tells a different version of the story. According to Father Dan, it was the Ursuline nuns who received an unidentified statue just prior to the French Revolution. All over the exterior of the crate in which the statue was housed were the words EXPEDITE. The nuns proceeded to open up the box and when they saw the statue, none of them recognized who it was. They asked the bishop to identify the saint and the bishop was unable to do so. So, they wrote a letter to the people who sent the statue from France and inquired about its identity. Unfortunately, the French Revolution had already begun and they never received a reply. So, they placed the statue of the unidentified saint— whom they now called St Expedite—at the end of a corridor of their school where it remained for several decades.
St. Expedite, though located at the end of a corridor where he could have easily been forgotten was, in fact, not forgotten or ignored. The students living in the convent took a liking to him. They prayed to him and eventually developed what is referred to as the Nine Hour Novena to St. Expedite. Now, novenas are not uncommon in Catholicism; there are nine day novenas to virtually all saints. However, St. Expedite’s novena was what is referred to as a flying novena because it is said for nine hours and according to this story, the students achieved positive results when praying to him in this manner. His devotion continued to grow among the student body and he gained the reputation for bringing unusually quick results to prayers.
Because Father Dan views this legend as a “light-hearted” story, he suggests the feast day for St. Expedite might be April 1st, April Fool’s Day, as opposed to April 19th. Father Dan clearly does not recognize St. Expedite as an official saint in Catholicism; but, at least he concedes that when people pray to St. Expedite, they get results, and quick ones at that.
* The above article is excerpted from The Conjurer's Guide to St. Expedite, copyright 2014 Denise Alvarado, All rights reserved worldwide.