Very Little Actual History
The veneration of this saint is not recent; it has been around at least since the Middle Ages maybe even longer. So it has withstood the test of time. It has even been able to withstand an attack from within the Holy Roman Catholic Church. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were quite a few bishops who worked diligently to eradicate the Saint’s following. The good bishops thought that Saint Expedite’s many followers were in a position that could splinter the Roman Catholic Church and form a separate church. Cooler heads prevailed and the good bishops were unsuccessful in abolishing the so-called “cult” of St. Expedite. They were successful however in removing his name from the modern Catholic Venerated Saint list since the 1960’s.
It is true that the historical record regarding St. Expedite’s life minimal. Legend has it that he was a commander of a Roman legion in Armenia who converted to Christianity and he was beheaded by the emperor Diocletian in 303 AD. The name Expeditus was in the Geronimian Martirology since the 5th century. The only facts that seem to be certain are the day (19th April) and the place of his death (Melitene - nowadays Malatya, Turkey). It has been said that very early Catholic priests may have used St. Expedite’s image with his cross and crow in an advertising campaign to warn pagans not to put off until tomorrow the conversion that could be accomplished today.
A couple of Stories
Here are a couple of stories that are told over and over again that try to explain the good saint’s name. I don’t believe either of them because they are too recent but I’ll put them out because they are there. You can make your own decision about them.
A Parisian convent received a package from Rome containing a statue and relics of a saint, but they were unsure to whom the Holy Remains belonged. The package in which it came was marked “spedito” or “special delivery,” which in Latin translates to Expeditus. Whether the relics actually belong to the Armenian martyr or the good sisters were just confused by the way the words appeared on the package and taken as a name is not known.
There is an old tale about the arrival of Saint Expedite in New Orleans. The story goes that in outfitting the Chapel of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, the priests sent off to Spain for a large and beautiful statue of the Virgin, and many months later, by ship, they received TWO crates instead of one. They opened the first and it contained the statue of Mary, which they had commissioned, and then they turned to the unexpected second crate, which only bore the legend EXPEDITE on the outside. This they opened, to find the statue of a Roman centurion. In their simple ignorance, they mistook the shipping instructions, EXPEDITE, meaning, "expedite this shipment" to be the name of a saint.
As Popular as a Rock Star
Saint Expedite is venerated in France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Latin America. Today in Brazil he is as popular as the hottest rock stars. All over Brazil (which has 125 million Catholics, more than in any other country) holy cards, billboards and makeshift altars display depictions of the saint. Church officials expect 200,000 people to attend ceremonies in São Paulo marking his April 19 feast day, more than 10 times the turnout from eight years ago. New churches named for Expedite are springing up throughout the country. A life of Expeditus is the best seller among saints' biographies offered by Edições Loyola, a religious publisher there, outpacing such perennial favorites as St. Anthony and St. Rita. Two São Paulo radio programs allow Expedite's adherents to call in with petitions for aid or accounts of answered prayers. The saint's army of professed followers includes a veejay for Brazilian MTV, a professional soccer player, a top model and several politicians. In the United States, he is greatly revered in New Orleans, where he came by way of Spain when it was a Spanish colony from 1763 to 1803. St. Expedite is unofficially commemorated on April 19th. Even though his name has not been included in the official Roman Catholic martyrology (the calendar of universally recognized saints) the Vatican does “tolerate” the veneration of saints who may be of purely local interest.
In My Humble Opinion
I really don’t think that people who petition Saint Expedite are all that worried about his history or lack of it. They have enough to worry about with all the problems that are dumped on them day in and day out. They ask for assistance and he provides. They are sure that he will help them. This is the kind of thing that Saint Expedite does best. He helps those who ask for it. He helps those who need it. He has helped me when I asked for it. This entire website is in his honor. I am publicly announcing that Saint Expedite has helped me many times and I am forever grateful.