Wikimedia Commons/Erin McCarthy
Wikimedia Commons/Erin McCarthy

11 Patron Saints of Food, Coffee, and Alcohol

Wikimedia Commons/Erin McCarthy
Wikimedia Commons/Erin McCarthy

Soufflé not rising? Homebrew beer not bubbly? Bees … suffering Colony Collapse Disorder? There may be an app for everything these days, but guaranteed, there are patron saints for more—including disasters of the food-and-drink-related variety. So rather than turning to your iPhone for practical intercession, how about turning to the patron saint of baking or beer-making or beekeeping for divine intervention?

1. Bacon: Saint Anthony the Abbott

Saint Anthony the Abbott is technically a patron saint of butchers, but since there are so many patron saints of butchers—including the apostles John, Bartholomew, Andrew, and Peter—Anthony can afford to specialize in bacon. He was a 4th century ascetic who lived for 20 years in an abandoned fort, only occasionally performing miracles and healing people who broke in on his solitude. He is frequently depicted with pigs, possibly owing to his use of pig fat in his healing concoctions, so he was adopted by pig butchers as their patron saint—meaning that if you’re craving the crispy, smoky flavor of good bacon, Anthony is the man you want to talk to.

2. Coffee: Saint Drogo

Saint Drogo, born the son of a Flemish nobleman in 1105 in Flanders, was the original multi-tasker—he could reportedly “bilocate” and was seen simultaneously working in the fields and going to Mass on Sundays. This undoubtedly took a lot of energy, which is probably one of the reasons why he is the patron saint of coffee and coffeehouses (as well as ugly people and cattle).

3. Baking: Saints Elizabeth of Hungary and Nicholas

Having bread troubles? You’ve got two saints to call on: Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, a princess born in 1205 who rejected courtly life in order to distribute bread to the poor, and Saint Nicholas—yep, that Saint Nick, the jolly fat man with the belly like a bowl full of jelly. Nicholas was a 4th century bishop who rescued three poor women from a life of prostitution by tossing bags of gold through their window at night; he’s also the patron saint of children, pawnbrokers, and Greece. 

4. Beer: Saints Nicholas, Luke, and Augustine

If you’re having trouble with your beer—whether you're suffering a homebrew disaster or the waitress is taking too long to bring your pint—then you’ve got three different saints to whom you could appeal. There’s Saint Nicholas, mentioned above; Saint Luke, author of the third Gospel and considered the first Christian physician; and Saint Augustine of Hippo (top). Augustine, who lived in the early 5th century, had a boozy, wantonly licentious lifestyle;  he earned saint status after giving up his wanton ways, and became the patron saint of beer sometime after.

5. Wine: Saints Vincent and Urban

Saint Vincent of Saragossa died so that we could have good wine. Well, not exactly: The 3rd century Spanish martyr died for his faith, after some serious torture involving iron hooks and being roasted on a red-hot gridiron. But since his death, he’s become the patron saint of wine and wine-makers. So thank you, Saint Vincent. And thank you, Saint Urban, another patron saint of wine. He was the bishop of Langres in France during the 4th century, but found himself on the receiving end of some persecution after the political situation got murky. He hid in a vineyard, and took the opportunity to convert the vineyard workers who concealed him; he went from vineyard to vineyard thereafter, spreading the Gospel.

6. Hangovers and alcoholics: Saints Bibiana and Monica

If, unlike Augustine, you’re not quite ready to give up your inebriate ways, then you may want to keep a prayer to Saint Bibiana, patron saint of hangovers, on your lips. Little is known about the 4th century virgin and martyr, except that she was reportedly both a virgin and a martyr—she was, according to legend, tied to a pillar on the orders of the Governor of Rome and beaten to death after she refused to convert or be seduced. Why she’s the patron saint of hangovers, as well as headaches, the mentally ill, and single women, is totally unclear. Tired of having hangovers all the time? The first step might be to admit you have a problem (beer for breakfast might be an indication). The second step might be to reach out to Saint Monica. She was the mother of wild, drunken St. Augustine and she earned her saintly status by spending 17 years praying for him. She’s the patron saint of alcoholics. 

7. Fish: Saint Neot

But back to cheerier topics, like tiny saints and fish. St. Neot, a Glastonbury, England monk who died in 877, is the patron saint of fish. He was also reportedly only 15 inches tall and spent his days in a well, water up to his neck, practicing his devotions.

8. Cooking: Saint Lawrence

Making a fancy dinner? Saint Lawrence of Rome is your go-to man, the patron saint of cooking. A 3rd century Roman deacon, he and his brethren ran afoul of the Prefect of Rome, an occupational hazard of being a Christian back then. He was sentenced to death by slow roasting over an open fire, but he was reportedly so filled with God’s strength and joy that he didn’t even feel the flames. At one point, he even joked with his torturers, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side!”

9. Grocers, farmers, dairy workers, and beekeepers: Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Isidore the Farmer, Saint Brigid of Kildare, and Saint Ambrose

Before you get down to cooking, you probably want make sure that your local grocery store has all the ingredients you need. For that, you can appeal to Michael the Archangel, one of the stars of the Old Testament. Some claim that grocers adopted Michael as their patron saint because he was also the patron saint of law enforcement officials, who protected the grocers’ business. But how about the people who grow the food that turned up at market? For that, you’ll want Saint Isidore the Farmer who was, well, a farmer and whose plowing was often accomplished with the help of three angels. If you’re on the look out for some really good cheese to pair with a fine wine (thank you, Saint Vincent), have a quick chat with 5th century Saint Brigid of Kildare, one of Ireland’s big three: Before giving her life over to virginity and Christian piety, she’d made a success of the dairy owned by the Druid landowner who’d bought her from her mother. And finally, offer a prayer of thanks to Saint Ambrose, patron saint of bee-keepers, for keeping the natural world buzzing, because without bees, life would lack sweetness (and economic, agricultural stability). Ambrose, who lived in Rome and Milan in the 4th century, earned his patronage from his nickname, the Honey Tongued Doctor, owing to his eloquent speaking and preaching. 

10. Wait-staff: Saint Martha

Or maybe, you’ll just go out to eat. At which point, your waiter or waitress may just offer a quick prayer to Saint Martha. Martha, the patron saint of wait staff and housewives (who sometimes feel like wait staff, without the tips), frequently hosted Jesus and his Apostles at dinner. But one day, she became irritated that her sister, Mary, wasn’t helping serve and was instead sitting and listening to Jesus. Jesus admonished Martha by noting that all her serving was distracting her from hearing his message. Martha learned her lesson and next time he came around, she stopped what she was doing to be with him. She became the patron saint of those who serve, especially food.

11. Stomach pain and choking: Saint Charles Borromeo, Saint Timothy, Saint Brice, and Saint Blaise

You’ve come down with food poisoning, it happens. Who are you going to call? Saint Charles Borromeo was a 16th century cardinal who dedicated his life to helping the poor and sick; exactly why he’s associated with stomach ailments is unclear, but he is. Saint Timothy, a 1st century early Christian who was stoned to death, is also the patron saint against intestinal disorders, although again for reasons occluded by time. And then there’s wild Saint Brice, a 5th century priest who was at first better known for his wicked ways, but whose genuine conversion earned him a place in the canon; he’s another patron saint of tummy troubles, also for unknown reasons. Saint Blaise once rescued a child from choking to death on a fishbone, so he’s the patron saint of throat ailments (choking would be one); he also once convinced a wolf to return a pig he’d stolen from a poor woman. Handy guy to have around.

There are more saints than there are days of the year to celebrate them, sure, but a surprising number of things don’t have a patron saint—like chocolate, for example, or tea. What would you like to see a patron saint of?

Live Smarter
Nervous About Asking for a Job Referral? LinkedIn Can Now Do It for You

For most people, asking for a job referral can be daunting. What if the person being approached shoots you down? What if you ask the "wrong" way? LinkedIn, which has been aggressively establishing itself as a catch-all hub for employment opportunities, has a solution, as Mashable reports.

The company recently launched "Ask for a Referral," an option that will appear to those browsing job listings. When you click on a job listed by a business that also employs one of your LinkedIn first-degree connections, you'll have the opportunity to solicit a referral from that individual.

The default message that LinkedIn creates is somewhat generic, but it hits the main topics—namely, prompting you to explain how you and your connection know one another and why you'd be a good fit for the position. If you're the one being asked for a referral, the site will direct you to the job posting and offer three prompts for a response, ranging from "Sure…" to "Sorry…".

LinkedIn says the referral option may not be available for all posts or all users, as the feature is still being rolled out. If you do see the option, it will likely pay to take advantage of it: LinkedIn reports that recruiters who receive both a referral and a job application from a prospective hire are four times more likely to contact that individual.

[h/t Mashable]

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Essential Science
What Is a Scientific Theory?
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

In casual conversation, people often use the word theory to mean "hunch" or "guess": If you see the same man riding the northbound bus every morning, you might theorize that he has a job in the north end of the city; if you forget to put the bread in the breadbox and discover chunks have been taken out of it the next morning, you might theorize that you have mice in your kitchen.

In science, a theory is a stronger assertion. Typically, it's a claim about the relationship between various facts; a way of providing a concise explanation for what's been observed. The American Museum of Natural History puts it this way: "A theory is a well-substantiated explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can incorporate laws, hypotheses and facts."

For example, Newton's theory of gravity—also known as his law of universal gravitation—says that every object, anywhere in the universe, responds to the force of gravity in the same way. Observational data from the Moon's motion around the Earth, the motion of Jupiter's moons around Jupiter, and the downward fall of a dropped hammer are all consistent with Newton's theory. So Newton's theory provides a concise way of summarizing what we know about the motion of these objects—indeed, of any object responding to the force of gravity.

A scientific theory "organizes experience," James Robert Brown, a philosopher of science at the University of Toronto, tells Mental Floss. "It puts it into some kind of systematic form."


A theory's ability to account for already known facts lays a solid foundation for its acceptance. Let's take a closer look at Newton's theory of gravity as an example.

In the late 17th century, the planets were known to move in elliptical orbits around the Sun, but no one had a clear idea of why the orbits had to be shaped like ellipses. Similarly, the movement of falling objects had been well understood since the work of Galileo a half-century earlier; the Italian scientist had worked out a mathematical formula that describes how the speed of a falling object increases over time. Newton's great breakthrough was to tie all of this together. According to legend, his moment of insight came as he gazed upon a falling apple in his native Lincolnshire.

In Newton's theory, every object is attracted to every other object with a force that’s proportional to the masses of the objects, but inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. This is known as an “inverse square” law. For example, if the distance between the Sun and the Earth were doubled, the gravitational attraction between the Earth and the Sun would be cut to one-quarter of its current strength. Newton, using his theories and a bit of calculus, was able to show that the gravitational force between the Sun and the planets as they move through space meant that orbits had to be elliptical.

Newton's theory is powerful because it explains so much: the falling apple, the motion of the Moon around the Earth, and the motion of all of the planets—and even comets—around the Sun. All of it now made sense.


A theory gains even more support if it predicts new, observable phenomena. The English astronomer Edmond Halley used Newton's theory of gravity to calculate the orbit of the comet that now bears his name. Taking into account the gravitational pull of the Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn, in 1705, he predicted that the comet, which had last been seen in 1682, would return in 1758. Sure enough, it did, reappearing in December of that year. (Unfortunately, Halley didn't live to see it; he died in 1742.) The predicted return of Halley's Comet, Brown says, was "a spectacular triumph" of Newton's theory.

In the early 20th century, Newton's theory of gravity would itself be superseded—as physicists put it—by Einstein's, known as general relativity. (Where Newton envisioned gravity as a force acting between objects, Einstein described gravity as the result of a curving or warping of space itself.) General relativity was able to explain certain phenomena that Newton's theory couldn't account for, such as an anomaly in the orbit of Mercury, which slowly rotates—the technical term for this is "precession"—so that while each loop the planet takes around the Sun is an ellipse, over the years Mercury traces out a spiral path similar to one you may have made as a kid on a Spirograph.

Significantly, Einstein’s theory also made predictions that differed from Newton's. One was the idea that gravity can bend starlight, which was spectacularly confirmed during a solar eclipse in 1919 (and made Einstein an overnight celebrity). Nearly 100 years later, in 2016, the discovery of gravitational waves confirmed yet another prediction. In the century between, at least eight predictions of Einstein's theory have been confirmed.


And yet physicists believe that Einstein's theory will one day give way to a new, more complete theory. It already seems to conflict with quantum mechanics, the theory that provides our best description of the subatomic world. The way the two theories describe the world is very different. General relativity describes the universe as containing particles with definite positions and speeds, moving about in response to gravitational fields that permeate all of space. Quantum mechanics, in contrast, yields only the probability that each particle will be found in some particular location at some particular time.

What would a "unified theory of physics"—one that combines quantum mechanics and Einstein's theory of gravity—look like? Presumably it would combine the explanatory power of both theories, allowing scientists to make sense of both the very large and the very small in the universe.


Let's shift from physics to biology for a moment. It is precisely because of its vast explanatory power that biologists hold Darwin's theory of evolution—which allows scientists to make sense of data from genetics, physiology, biochemistry, paleontology, biogeography, and many other fields—in such high esteem. As the biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky put it in an influential essay in 1973, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."

Interestingly, the word evolution can be used to refer to both a theory and a fact—something Darwin himself realized. "Darwin, when he was talking about evolution, distinguished between the fact of evolution and the theory of evolution," Brown says. "The fact of evolution was that species had, in fact, evolved [i.e. changed over time]—and he had all sorts of evidence for this. The theory of evolution is an attempt to explain this evolutionary process." The explanation that Darwin eventually came up with was the idea of natural selection—roughly, the idea that an organism's offspring will vary, and that those offspring with more favorable traits will be more likely to survive, thus passing those traits on to the next generation.


Many theories are rock-solid: Scientists have just as much confidence in the theories of relativity, quantum mechanics, evolution, plate tectonics, and thermodynamics as they do in the statement that the Earth revolves around the Sun.

Other theories, closer to the cutting-edge of current research, are more tentative, like string theory (the idea that everything in the universe is made up of tiny, vibrating strings or loops of pure energy) or the various multiverse theories (the idea that our entire universe is just one of many). String theory and multiverse theories remain controversial because of the lack of direct experimental evidence for them, and some critics claim that multiverse theories aren't even testable in principle. They argue that there's no conceivable experiment that one could perform that would reveal the existence of these other universes.

Sometimes more than one theory is put forward to explain observations of natural phenomena; these theories might be said to "compete," with scientists judging which one provides the best explanation for the observations.

"That's how it should ideally work," Brown says. "You put forward your theory, I put forward my theory; we accumulate a lot of evidence. Eventually, one of our theories might prove to obviously be better than the other, over some period of time. At that point, the losing theory sort of falls away. And the winning theory will probably fight battles in the future."


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