When It Absolutely, Positively Needs to Be There Overnight, Ask St. Expeditus

The feast of St. Expeditus is April 19.

The statue of St. Expeditus from the Holy Savior Church in Warsaw
The statue of St. Expeditus from the Holy Savior Church in Warsaw (photo: Piotr Rymuza / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0)

“St. Expedite, witness of Faith, to the point of martyrdom, in exercise of Good, you make tomorrow, today. You live in the fast time of the last minute, always projecting yourself toward the future. Expedite and give strength to the heart of the man who doesn’t look back and who doesn’t postpone. Amen.” — Prayer to St. Expeditus to End Procrastination

Does anyone recall the 1982 FedEx commercial, “When it absolutely, positively needs to be there overnight?” I bet St. Expeditus remembers. 

Voiced by the incomparable John Moschitta, Jr., the commercial promised quick-as-a-wink service, which was unheard of back then in the days of covered wagons and diphtheria. I think the last dinosaurs perished mere months before that commercial hit the airwaves.

St. Expeditus knows the travails of those who, falling short of the glory of God, can’t seem to meet their deadlines, let alone muster a good bilocation when needed. That’s when he promises his utmost attention to our fervent prayers for a speedy response to an immanent life-or-death target.

The Latin cognate is clear in the English word “to expedite” — thus St. Expeditus is the patron saint of those suffering from procrastination as well as those who find themselves fighting against the time and tide that wait for no man. He’s also the patron saint of emergency medical workers for obvious reasons. He also protects merchants, programmers, navigators, sailors, students and test-takers. It’s not uncommon for him to be petitioned by those who need an expeditious result as part of a lawsuit, or by those drowning as they navigate bureaucratic morasses.

We don’t know a great deal about St. Expeditus. The legends around him are more abundant than verifiable facts. The story I like the most is the one most commonly depicted in his iconography. He’s dressed as a Roman soldier bearing a palm frond. At his feet are one or more crows. From the crows’ mouths comes a banderole with the word cras (Latin: “tomorrow”). Expeditus is usually depicted holding a cross inscribed with the Latin word hodie (Latin: “today”).

As tradition would have it, upon being enlightened by the Holy Spirit, this centurion decided to convert to the Church. As he was on his way to the church, the devil (the prince of procrastinators) took the form of a murder of crows intent on delaying the soldier’s plans. They cried aloud in Latin, Cras! Cras! (Latin: “Tomorrow! Tomorrow!”) mimicking the crow’s natural “caw.” But Expeditus, not having a great deal of patience that day, stomped upon the mocking crows, ending their miserable lives, shouting, Christianus ero, hodie! (Latin: “I will be a Christian today!”)

I’m often mocked by crows and having been thusly treated, I have no doubt they can be ministers and familiars of infernal powers and thus I wholeheartedly believe the story. There’s a reason a group of crows is referred to as a “murder.”

Expeditus (d. April, 303) is an Armenian Christian martyr. All the dependable information we have for him comes from the Hieronymian Martyrology which describes him as one of six soldiers of the Legio XII Fulminata murdered at Melitene during the Diocletian persecution. Considering that the word expeditus is Latin for a light infantry soldier without a marching pack, St. Expeditus might be named for his profession. Admittedly, Expeditus was also a somewhat common male name in the Roman Empire.

He was martyred for converting to Christianity. Considered the patron saint of urgent causes, he is commemorated by the Catholic Church on April 19. But, if you’re not attentive, his feast day just flies by unawares.

There is a common story that was obviously made up on the fly. Some French nuns were sent an anonymous package of unlabeled relics. The sole written note was the Latin word spedito which was commonly written on packages to assure a rushed delivery. The “confused” nuns mistook this for the saint’s name and thus a devotion was born.

This is hogwash. First, as mentioned previously, the Expeditus was known many centuries prior to the advent of this 1781 story. In fact, by this time, St. Expeditus had already been made the patron of the Sicilian town, Acireale. In addition, the saint had already been invoked in Germany against the malady of procrastination prior to the 18th century.

St. Expeditus is venerated throughout Europe and Latin America. His devotes are particularly numerous in Brazil. Veneration among Chileans revolves around a delightful story. A devotee of St. Expeditus showed up in the beach city of Viña del Mar and petitioned some priests to help her build a chapel to St. Expeditus. At first, she was shown the door but, upon praying to the patron saint of deadlines, the funds for the church arrived nine days later.

I’m currently in need for St. Expeditus’ expeditious assistance and hope you’ll join your prayers to mine. By the grace of God, I'm about to send 10 young men to various Catholic universities throughout the United States. The omicron variant has wrecked devastation and ruin not on the good people of Burma but rather, on the American embassy in Rangoon. This has had the effect of slowing down the paperwork needed to get them out of this country which is falling apart around us. Your prayers would be appreciated. Your kindness will be rewarded.

St. Expeditus is a patron saint invoked in urgent situations. To this list, I would recommend the following petitioners: those with interminable long waits in airports, train terminals, bus stops and traffic, those who need to navigate bureaucratic red tape, patients waiting for treatments and therapies to take effect, those waiting for college applications to run their course, those waiting for test results, parents who await teenagers who are slow to accommodate them, athletes who need that “extra push,” and those who need to make their way through any tedious, unnecessary, soul-rendering process.

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