Tuesday, January 29, 2008

St. Otto of Bamberg

It will come as no surprise to readers to learn that the creators of the St. Otto, Patron Saint of Parking, Air Freshener (Pure Citrus Scent) are not doctors of the church but novelty-manufacturing brothers who work out of an old piano factory in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. (See for yourself, at www.blueq.com.) When you take a closer look at St. Otto as pictured below (and as suggested in the comments), it’s plain to see that the iconography is glaringly in error. That’s not St. Otto! That’s Jesus, in his Suffer the Little Children pose: Suffer the Mini-Coopers to Come Unto Me. If they were going to cut and paste holy cards and Buicks, the Sacred Heart might have been a better choice, with Our Lord taking to heart the Eternal Combustion Engine.

How do I know that’s not St. Otto? I received a sign. St. Otto of Bamberg was a Swabian (1062-1139), the patron saint of Bamberg, Germany, and also of mad dogs, rabies, and hydrophobia. A priest and the chancellor to the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV, Otto tried to reconcile church and state, and he must have had his work cut out for him, because Henry IV set up an antipope. Still, somehow Otto "kept out of all political turmoil,” and by all accounts led a model life. He founded twenty monasteries (for which he is known as the Father of the Monks) and converted twenty thousand Pomeranians—not the dogs but the people of Pomerania, in Poland. In fact, he converted them twice, because the first time it didn’t take.

St. Otto’s feast day is July 2nd, according to Butler’s Lives of the Saints (Concise Edition), and also according to my complimentary calendar from Tecno Meccanica Bedin, an Italian hubcap maker. (In Italy, he is Sant’Ottone di Bamberga.) The Catholic Encyclopedia, however, gives his feast day variously as June 30th, September 30th, and October 1st. This plethora of feast days would certainly make Otto of Bamberg a welcome addition to the Alternate Side Parking Calendar—the very thought of it is enough to make me drool. I pursued him onto an Italian Web site devoted to saints (click here for a more historically accurate image of St. Otto of Bamberg), but it wasn't until I Googled Otto in German that I found the mad-dog connection, in a catalogue of miracles: "Ein Kind, das einen Nagel verschlungen, ein Blinder, ein Stummer, ein Gichtbr├╝chiger und EIN VOM TOLLWUTIGEN HUNDE GEBISSENERE erhalten durch die F├╝rbitte des hl. Otto Hilfe und Genesung." Rough translation: A child who swallowed a nail, a blind guy, a mute, a gout-sufferer, and ONE BITTEN BY A RABID DOG go into a bar. No no no, they go to the grave of St. Otto and through his intercession obtain relief. Whew!

It doesn't say what kind of dog.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Well, a Pomeranian, no doubt.