As I write, I’m gazing through a lush cypress and palm-lined canyon in the City of Angels towards distant smoggy downtown. We just had an earthquake. It wasn’t The Big One, which is a disappointing relief. St Emygdius, one of the patron saints of Los Angeles, earned his pay cheque.

Emygdius got this job, surely, because of yore he was invoked in several Italian quake-prone towns. Immigrants remember their beloved roots and bring their saints along. Since Emygdius apparently kept Alaric from sacking Ascoli Piceno in the 5th century, he is also invoked against invasions. That’s not going so well here in southern California.

Why am I writing about St Emygdius? Because I thought about St Philip the Deacon. I thought of Philip because when I arrived at my lodging in LA, I blessed holy water (using, of course, the traditional Roman Ritual) and, after that, our rental car, and then the City of Angels on the vaporous horizon. That car blessing includes the charming image of Philip, sent by the angel to instruct the Ethiopian eunuch seated in his chariot reading Isaiah’s prophecies.

Speaking of eunuchs – there are lots of them in LA – for years when I blessed a vehicle, it would soon after be involved in an accident. I warned people, but they wanted their cars blessed anyway. Like clockwork: bammo! One lady, after her fender-bender, thanked me without a hint of reproach, adding: “Think, Father, how bad it would have been if you had not blessed it!”

We had an earthquake this morning, but it could have been a lot worse. Emygdius? The holy water?

Emygdius was a cephalophore. Who am I to judge? This is an exclusive club among saints, including St Denis of Paris, Aphrodisius of Alexandria, etc. There is also the unforgettable fomenter of schism, Bertran de Born, in Dante’s Inferno 28. How did I get to hell from Los Angeles? Some might opine that that’s too easy a question.

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