FEast: Oct. 9th
Paris, France, rabies, headaches
Though Denis is the patron of France, he was born in Italy some time in the early 3rd century. We don't know much about him, but we can assume he lived his early life in prayer, and, after becoming a priest, was sent by Pope Fabian to the region of Gaul (which is now France, Luxembourg, and Belgium), which was a tough place to be an early Christian. The Christians already there had suffered very much, and the Pope expected Denis and his companions to convert more of the region. The area was a mix of Roman ideas (since Rome had conquered it in the first century BC) mixed with the Gauls' Celtic roots. Most people were polytheistic. Paris was called Lutetia, and Denis was made to be the first bishop of the city. Emperor Decius of the Roman Empire announced his persecution of Christians at this time, however, since the religion was growing and he needed to put an end to it. Denis and his followers had to go underground where he preached in a crypt that still likely exists today.
Apparently, he and the 6 others he had been sent with (including his best friends Rusticus and Elutherius) were actually doing a very good job with what they had been sent to do. The Roman priests, then, were becoming increasingly angry at them for taking people from their religions. They had them arrested and imprisoned.
Stories then say they were tortured - by wild animals, burning, whips, and more. When none of these could kill them, they were ordered to be beheaded. They were taken to a hill outside the city where many Christians had been killed (now called Montmartre for that reason). However, when it was Denis' turn to be executed, he simply picked up the head that had been separated from his body - and continued on his way, preaching! He took a long road (now called "Street of the Martyrs") for several miles until he actually died. A chapel was built on that spot that was later turned into a Basilica (possibly by St. Genevieve in the 6th century) and named after him. It became a tradition for French kings to be buried there, and he became a very popular saint in France in the middle ages.
Some stories say his body was thrown into the Seine river and later recovered by his followers. He was buried in the spot of his chapel (which expanded as well to an abbey and then a city) with his friends.
in Life, there are people, circumstances, & events that seek to cut us down a notch or to stop our trajectories. When we are stopped in our paths, it is so hard to start again, to find the strength to get up, try again, keep going. We know very well we could be stopped again, and it may only get harder. be with us as we pick ourselves back up and keep going.
If you have seen any traditional art of St. Denis (and there's a lot of it - I guess early artists wanted an excuse to paint a lot of blood) you know how gruesome it can be. Taking the downcast eyes from a sculpture and covering the neck completely with an oversized turtleneck was my best option to avoid being completely... gross.