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Saint Ahab, pray for us

As the author-curator of the exhibit “Agincourt Homecoming” (installed in early September and closing very grandly on October 25th, the 600th anniversary of the actual Battle of Agincourt), I have the disadvantage of putting things on the walls and simultaneously knowing what isn’t there but could have been. That awareness troubles me much these days, the last three weeks—more or less—that we have to prepare. That being said, it seemed the appropriate time to compose the text of “Saint Ahab’s Prayer” that will accompany the as yet unseen icon of Ahab, original patron saint of the Roman Catholic parish in Agincourt.

His icon is being painted by our friend Jonathan Taylor Rutter [still not certain whether to alphabetize under “T” or “R”] who has hinted that it will fuse the traditional form of an Eastern Orthodox icon with Pre-Raphaelite romanticism of the 19th century. An intriguing blend, wouldn’t you admit?

For those unfamiliar with Ahab, a 3rd century saint from the reign of Diocletian, he is alleged to have converted to Christianity while crucified on the mast of his ship. Miraculous cures and conversions are associated with his relics, first enshrined in Zadar, Croatia and later brought to Azincourt, France by retreating Crusaders. Today he is the patron saint of pirates—very few of whom would seem to be Christians these days—and more recently of obsessive-compulsives, two themes that underlie his prayer:

O, worthy Ahab, intercede for us. Help us understand the responsibilities borne of having much and the pitfalls that come with excess. Make me an instrument of the Universe’s redistributive power, sharing with those whose needs are great but voices weak. Never for myself, but ever and always an extension of the invisible hand that touches each, all and everywhere.

William Holman Hunt: The Scapegoat, 1854.

William Holman Hunt: The Scapegoat, 1854.


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