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Prayers and Terrors: A Catholic's Guide to Phobias and Saintly Protection

by James on July 14, 2008

 We all have fears and phobias. The Church has saints to protect you from them. Print this list out and carry it with you so you will have the prayers you need to get you through the terrors of every day life.

St. Gertrude of Nevilles (March 17)

Suriphobia – Fear of Mice

In Australia a mouse plague swept the countryside and farmers killed 544 tons of mice in an attempt to save their crops. A similar disaster in Germany may have contributed to the collapse of the nation in 1917. In 1928 a brave mouse in America named Willie piloted his steamboat down the river and whistled all the way. Australians and Germans are afraid of mice. Americans make pilgrimages to California and Florida to see a famous rodent. I have a friend whose mom and sister spent hours standing on a chair because they thought they saw a mouse in their kitchen, but I think that reaction is unusual. Rats are a little unnerving, but mice don't attack children or pets and they don't generally harm people. For you who think all rodents carry the plague, St. Getrude is your patron saint. She had little known experience with real mice, but she had a great devotion to the souls in purgatory who were often represented as mice.

 

St. Gertrude, you were born only one hundred years after the Plague of Justinian and rodents must have been part of your daily life. The same fuzzy animals that ravage crops and carry disease can be used as inspiration for cartoons and theme parks. Pray that I may see rodents in their proper perspective knowing that they can be used for many good things like companionship, fur, and pet food. Amen.

St. Patrick of Ireland (March 17)

Ophidiophobia – Fear of Snakes

I am not afraid of snakes. I don't own any snakes and I would be alarmed if I saw one on a plane, but they aren't all that scary. But I can say that I have been protected from them on at least one occasion. I was playing paintball in the woods with a new remote line for my marker when I thought I heard a CO2 leak. I immediately ducked to examine my equipment. Carefully checking all the connections I found nothing wrong with the gun yet the hissing remained. As I was pondering this conundrum, in the corner of my eye I noticed a coiled up rattle snake shaking his tail just eighteen inches from my feet and less than three feet from my face. I jumped out of my hiding place and escaped without injury but I am well aware that St. Patrick held that snake down for me. The legend of St. Patrick says that he drove the snakes out of Ireland. It is likely that the island never had snakes to begin with, but it is certain that he drove the Druids out of Ireland which is also a great achievement. Honestly, I would have been even more surprised if it was a Druid coiled up in the grass waiting to bite my face.

 

St. Patrick, you banished the slithering snakes from your country and helped turn it into a Christian nation. When serpents enter my life help me to get them behind me. God cursed them so why can't I? Pray for me that I may come out from under my rock of fear and experience a snake-free existence basking in the light of creation the way God originally intended. Amen.

 

St. Sithney of Brittany (August 4)

Hydrophobia – Fear of Water

Water, water everywhere. The aliens in Signs must have been surprised. 71% of the earth's surface is water and of course our bodies contain about the same percentage. Water is essential for life on earth but it can cause much destruction. Hurricanes, typhoons, and heavy rains have caused untold damage around the world. With a little prognostication Napoleon might have been hydroloophobic but for most people a fear of water is just as peculiar as Monk's fear of milk. The patron saint for those with an irrational fear of water is St. Sithney. Legend says that God asked him to be the patron of girls seeking husbands and that St. Sithney said he'd rather take care of mad dogs. The water from his well is used as a tonic to cure sick dogs and also hydrophobics. I don't know how you get them to drink it.

 

St. Sithney, when I fear water I am fearing 70% of my body. I don't have a proper appreciation for summer rains, beaches, or miraculous springs and I could really use a bath. Pray for me that I may be showered with God's protection and that I may receive Christ who is the Living Water. Amen.

 

St. Gratus of Aosta (September 7)

Insectophobia – Fear of Insects

Whether they come at you like an Egyptian plague or just appear on the inside of the driver-side window, insects are creepy. In some cultures they are considered a culinary delicacy but in America they tend to be used for nightmarish spectacles on shows like Fear Factor. They say every creature was created with a purpose but I can't help but wonder if maybe insects have outlived their usefulness. For those of you who have a body mass a million times that of a bug but still can't be in a room with one of them, pray to St. Gratus. His entirely fictitious biography says he traveled to Jerusalem to recover the holy relic of the head of St. John the Baptist. His story does not include any tales about insects but we can imagine that a man who is not afraid to carry around the severed (locust-eating) head of a five-hundred year old saint is probably not afraid of crickets either.

 

St. Gratus, you showed no hesitation in dealing with nature in all its inglorious glory. God created all the creeping things for a purpose but I pray that I am never part of that purpose. Please guide the insects to their homes outside and away from my car, bedroom, and shower drain. Protect me when our paths cross and give me the courage I need in dangerous situations. Amen.

 

St. Giles (September 1)

Noctiphobia – Fear of Night

Many people are scared of the dark and some people are even scared of falling asleep. They echo the sentiments of Count Saknussem who didn't sleep because he couldn't stand those “little slices of death”. I have never met anyone who was actually afraid of the night. Sure, the townspeople in The Village were a little noctiphobic and Robert Neville locked himself up before sunset in I Am Legend, but those folks were really more concerned about monsters and zombies than they were about the setting sun. But if you insist that you are afraid of the night then your patron saint is St. Giles, a Greek monk who lived in France. His claims to this phobia are as tenuous the phobia itself. He was a miracle worker who drank milk from a deer and was crippled by the king's hunting party. Many wondrous tales of his good works abound but none of them have to do with night.

 

Dear St. Giles, you worked many wonders in your life and showed great compassion for the poor and disabled. You may or may not have been afraid of the night but I ask that you comfort me as the sun sets. Christ was both born and resurrected during the still of night, showing Himself to be master of both. Let this night be a time of rest for me, a mini Sabbath, and pray that I may be given peace. Amen.

 

St. Friard (August 1)

Spheksophobia – Fear of Wasps

At the college I attended most of the students were of conventional social makeup; ultimate frisbee playing, Princess Bride watching, white russian drinking young adults. However, the undergrad population was also tastefully seasoned with certain... irregular personalities. One such character was a guy who always dressed like he was on safari. Not only did he wear a wide-brimmed beekeeping hat and gloves, he also darted from building to building and tree to tree. The whole effect was rather comical and we all thought that he was running from imaginary bees or wasps. Had that been the case he would have been thrilled to know that St. Friard was watching over him. Little is known about St. Friard except that he was a French hermit renowned for his piety. When he was tormented by the locals a cloud of wasps attacked them and they didn't leave until St. Friard prayed for them.

 

Holy Friard, you faced tormentors for the sake of your faith and you prayed that God's mercy would be shown to those who stung you with their harsh words. By your steadfast faith, you were able to banish a cloud of wasps. I pray with you for our spheksophobic brothers and sisters who find themselves pursued by striped insects that they may realize that insects, are more afraid of us than we are of them. Amen.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

jh July 14, 2008 at 1:40 pm

Great post

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Fran July 14, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Your experience with the snake is proof that St. Patrick takes care of his own. If parents only knew the future dangers their children would face, who knows what they might name them!

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Caterina November 3, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Who is the patron saint of hypocondia?

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Caterina November 3, 2008 at 12:02 pm

sorry…hypocondria

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George Blink June 8, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Something Catholics should watch out for is bad Catholic reading material. There is plenty of it. TAN Books is a particularly nasty “Catholic” publisher. Their books have cruel, harsh, strict teachings in them, all cloaked in the language of love.

It is hard to pick up a Catholic book and find truly balance reading material, because many “Catholic” books are published by people with bizarre theology. Many of them come from fundamentalist Catholics, like the ones who make TAN books – “Traditionalist Catholics,” they call themselves. These people disagree with Vatican II. They have their own church, their own bishops, they think that the pope is a fake, and they have they meanest, most abusive rules and strictures that I have ever seen. Their books and publications are genuinely terrifying. Traditionalist Catholics (like Mel Gibson) believe dogmatically that virtually EVERYONE is going to hell, very few are saved, one must do enormous penaces and massive charity work to get to Heaven, there is almost no hope, virtually everything (including sports) is a sin, etc. These beliefs are extremely damaging to a person’s sense of self and conscience. If you find yourself believing that most things is life are sinful, that most people are going to Hell, and so on, you may have been reading “tradtionalist” material. It is hard to tell which books are tradtionalist at first, until you see their theology. Even things such as the Baltimore Catechism can be scary, and spiritual advisors often tell people who are overly afraid of sin to stop reading them.

Catholics talk often about sin, and fear of sin. What is often not mentioned is the terrifying guilt and fear caused by “Catholic” books that appear Catholic, but really are not. There should be more awareness of these matters. A good website to look at is “Scrupulous Anonymous, for Catholics who have been damaged with an excessive fear of sin.

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Ian June 9, 2010 at 2:25 pm

@George: Do you have any proof for what you are saying? Can you provide some documentation that the staff of TAN are sedavacantists who have set up their own church? I have met some of the staff personally and don’t believe that anything you have accused them of is actually true. I would also be interested in any proof you have that TAN books contain “bizarre theology” or that spiritual directors tell people to stop reading the Baltimore Catechism.

You seem to have a bone to pick with the difficult parts of Church teaching, like Christ’s statements about the eyes of needles and the narrow path. Hell is real. Sin is real. The saints of the Church, including St. Paul, have long emphasized that sin and hell are things to be feared and that getting to heaven is not easy.

I would direct you to the “bizarre theology” of the current Catechism found in sections 386-409 (sin), part III, Article 8 on sin and 1036 on how few reach heaven.

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John April 28, 2011 at 5:19 am

From Catholic Answers:

TAN books has published “problematic materials like “Liturgical Shipwreck,” “In the Murky Waters of Vatican II,” and “AA-1025.” Which openly question if not condemn Vatican II, as well as insinuate that Pope John XXIII was a communist.”

Most Roman Catholics are not aware that TAN Books is a Traditionalist publisher, and not a Roman Catholic publisher. Tradtionalists are not part of the Roman Catholic Church, and reject its teaching authority. They do not (for the most part) follow the teachings of the Pope or the Vatican. They have their own separate church, their own bishops, and their own very demanding teachings, which can seem extremely harsh and intimidating to ordinary Roman Catholics.

I know plenty of Traditionalists, and own (sad to say) dozens of their TAN Books on Hell, damnation, and endless rules and regulations on how to avoid Hell. Traditionalism seems to be a fear religion. Hell is often the major selling point.

Pope John Paul II called Traditionalists “Integrationalists,” because of their endless strictures, regulations, and rules integrated into every tiny aspect of their lives, to stop them from “accidentally” falling into Hell. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger called them “God’s Doomsayers,” because of the endless, heretical harping of Traditionalists that “very few are saved.”

I’m not trying to be offensive. Just exact. Traditionalism is a very different religion than Roman Catholicism. It’s good for Roman Catholics to be aware of these differences. The Traditionalists I know do not like it when regular Catholics find out that they deny the teaching authority of the Pope. Traditionalists are often content to let regular Catholics assume that they are just like them – only much stricter. TAN Books claim to be Catholic, but they are not. It is a different viewpoint, promoted by a different Church.

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Ian April 28, 2011 at 9:12 am

Openly questioning the motives and results of a non-dogmatic council doesn’t make someone non-Catholic and describing the disaster in the liturgical life of the Church following the Council doesn’t either.

Can you provide proof that TAN rejects the teaching authority of the Pope and that the owners follow non-Catholic bishops?

The teachings on Hell are still the teachings of the Church. Just because they are rarely emphasized – to the detriment of the salvation of Catholics – doesn’t mean that they aren’t Catholic.

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Ian April 28, 2011 at 9:16 am

I would add that In the Murky Waters of Vatican II is not published by TAN.

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