Before the name of a person, however ascetic may have been his or her life, can be formally enrolled in the list of those whom the Roman Catholic Church pronounces worthy to be invoked in her public prayers, she insists upon evidence of his or her having exercised devotion in a heroic degree, and of three miracles at least having been performed through his or her intercession. An advocate well trained in the canon law attends the examination of witnesses, and is supposed to exert all his ingenuity in finding out and exposing weak points in the testimony offered in support of the miracles. However excellent his intentions, he is styled the Devil's Advocate for his part in the procedure. If a strong case be made out for the eminent sanctity of the deceased, all the papers used in the process are sealed up, and not opened till after a lapse of years supposed sufficient for cooling the undue zeal of relatives, fellow-countrymen, or brotherhoods. Then a second hearing being appointed, the seal is removed from the collection, the documents and evidence pro and con. read, and the examination begun anew. With the various stages of the business we are not concerned, except the fact that in the brief of the canonization the miracles alleged to have occurred are set forth, as entitled to general credit.
With these miracles the present article has no concern, its object being simply to inform and amuse, not to awake controversy. The early martyrs under the Roman Emperors were judged to stand in no need of this tedious preliminary to inscription in the Hagiologies. Their public and heroic profession of faith in Christ, and their subsequent tortures and public martyrdom, sufficed.
Among the voluminous martyrologies are mentioned many saints whose "acts"1 have been lost. This circumstance opened a field to the indiscreetly zealous, and to the successors of the bards and story-tellers of the heathen times. They had received, perhaps by tradition or hearsay, tales of miracles not mentioned in the acts. If they had not, it was easy to coin a few, or re-issue one of the old Pagan tales, with the stamp of the Christian mint, substituting this or that saint as the hero, instead of the original demigod or fairy king.
Our traditions, or legends, or whatever else they may be termed-many of them curious, others romantic or poetic in spirit-claim not of course the authority of the narratives inserted in the acts, and may be accepted or rejected by Roman Catholics without incurring spiritual censure. These are the legends which we here intend to discuss and quote.
1 Documents prepared at canonizations of saints, in which are mentioned the dates of their births and deaths, outlines of then-lives, and three miracles proved at the examination.