The Origins of “St. Val the Eccentric”

St. Val the Eccentric with Attributes, Copyright 2012 V.K. Starkgraf, All Rights Reserved

St. Val the Eccentric with Attributes, Copyright 2012 V.K. Starkgraf, All Rights Reserved

Pollyanna had “the glad game.”

This is not that.

A few years back — after work and before Bible study — I was sitting on the high wall at the front of a church on a hill in Ventura, CA, knitting. Knitting and thinking. And a thought and question occurred to me. As a Protestant, the formal canonization process is irrelevant: all true Christians are truly “saints.” However…what if?

If all Christian saints — Everyman and Everywoman saints — were cast in more traditional Roman Catholic terms, think of all the Christians you know in the following terms: (1) what would s/he be the patron saint of, (2) what would his/her attribute(s) be, (3) does s/he have a qualifying place or characteristic, and (4) if martyred, how?

I’ve not settled the question of martyrdom in my case, but my attributes are knitting needles and guinea pigs. There are other saints with my name, but I am unapologetically original (and often classed as a bit odd) — therefore I embrace eccentricity as my qualifier. Patron saint of…guinea pigs, knitting, needlework, and all creative children.

One of these days I will come up with a proper Ikon.

The problem with my game, however, is that it’s distractingly fun in dull moments in a church crowd.

So herein shall be the introspections and musings of St. Val the Eccentric on life, faith, and any other topic to really make you think about Christian theology (I am of a Reformed perspective).


19 thoughts on “The Origins of “St. Val the Eccentric”

  1. Pingback: Still thinking… | St. Val the Eccentric

  2. Firstly, my $0.02 is currently R 0.18.
    And secondly, the caption on the photo… Is the guinea pig named Attributes?

  3. No. In Christian religious iconography an “attribute” is an object or feature within the illustration which identifies the saint in question. St. Catherine of Alexandria, for example, is a wheel, St. Stephen has rocks on his head, St. John the Evangelist is pictured with a book and very often an eagle, St. John the Baptist wears a hair shirt and ALWAYS points to Jesus. It’s how you tell who’s who in the art. If you know this it’s a great parlor trick at museums and cathedrals.

    So, as the attributes of St. Val the Eccentric are guinea pigs and knitting? This photo features both.

    The guinea pig in the photo is Wentworth, and more about him (and his late mama and his girlfriend) is here:

    • Okay, I understand. Well played.
      Out of interest, how would you define this “Reformed perspective” you mention?

  4. Reformed theology is the branch of Protestantism that has its roots in John Calvin. I’m a Presbyterian, so that’s Scottish Reformed via John Knox. There were also Reformed churches in England (the Puritans), France, Switzerland, and Holland…maybe a few other places too, but those are the main ones. From there they spread across borders and to colonies.

    • That’s true generally (default factory setting), but didn’t see the need to state the obvious about something that would become readily apparent soon enough to anyone who can read. It’s also stereotypically true that Presbyterians tend to be a bookish, heady lot (sometimes to a fault). My ecumenical position shifted somewhat from where it started (Roman Catholic) and has passed through Baptist and Athiest too; there is a cranky ecumenical trio in my head that doesn’t let the Presbyterian overthink things and keeps her in-check.

        • Because of its emphasis on the sovereignty and holiness of God, its Christocentricity, the centrality of grace, and its unwavering commitment to the orthodoxy of scripture. There is also what I view to be the best position on the sacraments. That’s not to say I don’t read widely. It’s an odd thing for a Protestant to be so enamored over the history and historical theology if pre-Reformed Western Europe (as I am), but I find most evangelicals to be shallow on everything the Reformers were reforming back to as well as the counter-Reformation (American evangelicals are the worst, because they tend toward both shallowness of history and arrogance that their perspective is right because they believe it is right because it is what they have been told). That’s not to say I don’t fit myself into the “evangelical” camp, but let’s just say it’s not a cozy fit.

          • I see. I always admire it when people have put thought into what they believe and why they believe it.
            Would you label yourself an adherent to Calvinism? (If so,what flavour?)
            What is your opinion on all these different schools of theology? I mean: what do you think of the division?

            • I though I covered the Calvin thing — I’m a Presbyterian. I have issues with “Calvinism” because not all “Calvinist” ideas are in really great alignment with Calvin. “Reformed” is the better label and casts a wider net for solid orthodox reformed thought.

              I am pretty stalwartly Augustinian. Thomists are sometimes too tedious for my taste. I have little use for Pelegian/semi-Pelegian/Arminian/Weslyan thought — if it were so easy to just pull ourselves up by our spiritual socks to know our need for Jesus, why do we even need Jesus? There is just a lot of bad doctrine out there and this is not the place to start foaming at the mouth over such things. I am completely opposed to separatism (which I encountered in the Baptisty context — there can be no sharing the gospel or doing Christ’s work in the world if you’re concerned about never touching the world; I had no use for a church that told me I should only have Christian friends). I am not opposed to religios life (though I lean toward more missional religious than isolationist religious…say Jesuits over Cistercians). It bothers me that there is not a place to accommodate Protestants who are of a bend toward the religious.

              I don’t believe there is a seating chart in heaven, but I also believe there is a lot of bad and heretical teaching out there that sounds good (as heresy so often does). I think division can be productive or divisive. I think ecumenicalism is a good thing, but it requires people to be willing to think outside their box and both be willing to honestly consider tge perspective of others and sometimes agree to disagree without making it personal. My own denomination is in the process of a split (the PC(USA) denomination). Sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand, but sometimes division is the devil’s playground.

  5. Hi Val–wanted to pass on to you a kindness I received today–reluctantly I might add. As I have been blessed by having found you and your blog, something that touches my life and inspires me daily, I’m wanting to pass on to you the same Inspirational award that came my way this morning. This is something you most likely have received before and if that is the case, than please simply disregard it. If not, you may find more information about it on Jolandi’s site
    Like I say, disregard or not—but either way, I just wanted to let you know that you are very much a part of my own inspiration—of which I am most thankful for—Julie

    • I’m new enough, no I haven’t. I will deal with this when I’m not entertaining a lovely 4 mo old and four three-day-old guinea pigs. Bless you my friend.

    • I have an entire herd of six guinea pigs (in cages) living IN my bed, lined up against the wall for lack of available space anywhere else in the store room where I am presently living…start there.

      I’m just not like most people — introspective in unconventional directions. Creative and curious people find this refreshing. Everyone else? Not so much.

        • Yes well, one of these days I will have the time to write about Wigglewhiskers NextGen — Annie had four babies on 8 May 2013, so four weeks old today, but they still require a lot of care and don’t seem to understand that high-octane tag at 2:30 AM isn’t appropriate. Sophie is with Annie and Harville is with Wentworth, but the two “unsupervised” brothers Frederick and Benwick are the troublemakers, no big pig around to tell them to knock it off when they get into little boy “LOOK WHAT I CAN DO!!!” mode. I’ve been raising guinea pigs for 23 years, it’s always the same — they are tiny, cute, wiggly, and completely mental at this age.

          Just your average guinea pig whispering theologian art museum rat urban monastic writing from the suburbs of Los Angeles.

  6. Hey Val, just found your site by accident. I had no idea Laurie had passed away. I am so sorry to hear it. I had known her since kindergarten as a very kind and unique person. I appreciate your thoughtful writing here and hope you continue. Take care-

    • Life has taken me in interesting directions and off the grid since late 2013/early 2014. I’ve written some, even had one thing published, but getting through days and life and work has often left me with no energy or focus for writing. Someday…I hope. I’m also St. Val the Urban Monastic (and being “the urban monastic” has become weirdly far more literal in recent years). I have a third, yet unused, domain for a recovery-oriented blog that I think a lot of people (including myself) need me to think more seriously about actually writing.

      Laurie is so very missed, and I am heartened to still be very much in-touch with her parents via FB. There are a few of us for whom she was — and is — absolutely a sister (because she was an only child and I am not, HER parents actually have more pictures of MY life in those years than mine do).

      I love and remember her always.

      Thank you for reading.


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