25 May 2011

25 May - Saint Urban I

Weather: If it rains on Saint Urban's Day, there will be great scarcity of food and wine.


Saint Urban I was the 17th Bishop of Rome, following Pope Callixtus I.  He is found in the Acts of Saint Cecilia as the one who instructed and baptized Cecilia's husband Valerian and his brother, Tiburtius.

While he is said to have been martyred in 230 AD in the persecutions of Alexander Severus, the reign of Alexander (and that of Pope Urban) seems to have been a period of peace for the Christians, nor did the emperor persecute them.  However, the Golden Legend and other writings get around this by attributing the maltreatment of Christians to underlings - in this case, the provost and principal governor of the city of Rome - who would carry out their persecutions under the guise of legally punishable offenses.   The provost first had St. Cecilia killed, and then, when Urban would not give up Cecilia's treasure or sacrifice to the gods, had him executed as well.

Saint Urban's Day was also known as Dies Critieus, or Critical Day, because its weather foretold if the harvest would be good or bad.  A clear, sunny day meant abundance, while rain portended the opposite.

Vintners in parts of Germany and France used to gather today in open and public areas, where a statue of Saint Urban would be placed on a draped and flower-strewn table.  If the day was fine, then the statue was carried through the streets with great rejoicing and toasted with plenty of good wine, for it was believed that the grapes would be good that year; but O Woe! if the day was rainy and cold...  That meant the saint had withdrawn his protection, and the vintage (what there was of it) would be bad.  In their disappointment, the crowd would drag the statue through the mire and christen it with puddle water.

[Let us hope for a fair and beautiful day.  The Widow is fond of a good vintage.]