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Have an urgent prayer intention? Meet St. Expeditus

saint expeditus

Wellcome Collection | CC BY 4.0

Maria Paola Daud - published on 04/21/21 - updated on 04/19/24

He seems the perfect intercessor for those of us who find ourselves always procrastinating.

Many of us are experts at putting things off — everything from the simple tasks in our daily lives, to the more important things, such as building up our prayer.

In many countries, especially in Spain and Italy, a much beloved saint is a favorite of procrastinators, particularly because he’s known for “last-minute miracles.” His feast day is April 19 and he’s called St. Expeditus.

The existence of St. Expeditus has been called into question many times. According to Hippolyte Delehaye, a Jesuit historian and hagiographer [someone who writes about the lives of the saints], the name Expeditus comes from a mistaken reading of Elpidius, a martyr who died in Melitene, together with the name of a companion named Ermogene. According to this hypothesis, several saints were in the same group of martyrs, and they ended up being identified as just one person, Expeditus.

The name “Expeditus” is actually an adjective which, in Latin, means “unencumbered”; in military language it would refer to members of the light infantry. This could be indicative of the saint’s profession, as a very ancient saint from the era of the persecutions by Diocletian.

But the name led to a play on words that made Expeditus the patron saint of businessmen (who needed to come to agreements quickly) and of navigators. For the same reason, those who are undergoing trials are entrusted to him, as well as the success of those proceedings.

A procrastinator finds God

Various legends rose up around him. The best known is the “miracle of water” in the days of Marcus Aurelius. According to this legend, St. Expeditus was a commander of the 12th Roman Legion, which was fighting against the barbarians in the region of Armenia (currently Armenia and Turkey).

Only a miracle could save the Roman soldiers, who were without food or water, and were surrounded by their enemies. When the barbarians drew near for the final attack, the Roman soldiers knelt down and began to pray, as they had seen the Christians do, asking God for an urgent solution.

Expeditus knew quite well the story of Jesus, and the Lord’s teachings and attitude moved his heart. However, he was the general of a Roman division, and one of his duties was to persecute Christians, so he always left his conversion for another day.

But knowing that the barbarians’ final attack was near, and that he had very little possibility of winning the battle, he knelt with the other Roman soldiers to pray.

The barbarians, perplexed by the attitude of their enemies, halted the attack, and at that moment, the sky turned dark and a tremendous storm broke. The thirsty soldiers under Expeditus’ command gathered water in their helmets, and drank, recovering their strength. In this way, they won the battle.

From this moment on, many soldiers converted to Christianity, and Expeditus was touched by divine grace.

The legend continues that at the moment of his conversion, the Evil One appeared to him in the form of a raven saying “Cras, cras, cras” (which in Latin means “tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow”), encouraging him to continue to leave his conversion for later as he had done until then, full of doubt because of his fear of going from persecutor to persecuted.

But he crushed the raven under his foot, saying, “Hodie, hodie, hodie” (“today, today, today”).

A martyr’s end

After this, his doubts disappeared and he decided to leave the army of men to join the army of heaven, bearing witness to his faith in Christ to the point of baptism of blood in 303, when he was martyred by decapitation in Melitene.

His remains were never found, surely because the Christians of his day hid them very well out of fear of plundering.

St. Expeditus is generally represented dressed like a Roman soldier stepping on a raven; in one hand, he carries the palm of martyrdom, and in the other, a cross (or in early images, a clock) with the word, “hodie.”

If you need to obtain a favor for an urgent cause, you can pray the following prayer asking St. Expeditus, together with the Blessed Mother, to intercede for you:

Lord Jesus, I turn to you for help!
Most Blessed Virgin, come to my aid!

St. Expeditus, you who full of courage, opened your heart to God’s grace,
and did not give in to the temptation of delaying your surrender to Him:
help me not to leave for tomorrow what I should do today out of love for Christ.

From heaven, help me to renounce every vice and temptation, with the power that Jesus gives me.

May I be diligent, courageous, and disciplined in the Lord’s service,
and may I not lose courage in the face of trials.

I present my needs (intention) to you, who are the patron saint of urgent causes.

Above all, I ask you to intercede for me so that I may persevere in the faith,
and thus one day reach the joy of heaven with Christ,
with the Virgin Mary, the angels, and the saints. Amen.

Should we memorialize “legendary” saints?

Here, we must recall the fundamental distinction between our modern sense of history and a wider sense of hagiography.

We might think of St. Christopher, whose name means God-bearer because he carried Christ. There’s also Veronica, whose name means true image, since her cloth was left with Jesus’ face on his way to Calvary. More recently, we have the renewed devotion to St. Corona, given the name of the virus afflicting the world. But Corona actually refers to her martyr’s crown. 

These and other stories are valuable, because they tell us something of Christ and offer ways for us to live in relationship with him.

We would do well to trust that all of our prayers made to the saints are taken up by the chorus of saints (our brothers and sisters in heaven!) and are presented to the Lord.

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