This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

February 19 -- Feast of Saint Odran

 There are two saints named Odran.  The other, celebrated on October 27, was a follower of Saint Columba.  This one was Saint Patrick's charioteer.  I haven't read that he is the patron of chauffeurs and cabbies, but since my father and my mother's father both drove cab, I'd like to appoint him.  After all, Saint Fiacre's patronage is no more than geographic -- a  cab stand near the Hotel Saint-Fiacre in Paris.   Plainly Saint Odran has a better connection to drivers.  More on Odran in a moment, but first, some other famous chauffeurs.

Fabulous Howard
Fabulous Howard, aka Howard Reiser, began his career as a chauffeur in 1920.  He drove a Yellow Cab for a while, but hit his stride in 1960's LA, where his theatrical personality appealed to the vainglorious stars.  His horn played the "Colonel Bogey March," and loudspeakers on the car played bagpipes to announce the arrival of guests.  He had two phones in the car back when my family had one black rotary phone with a party line in our home.  And of course he would unroll his fifteen-foot red carpet for passengers when they arrived.

William Greer
Irish immigrant and US Navy veteran William Greer was driving a 1961 Lincoln Continental stretch limousine in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.  Hideous rumors circulated about this Secret Service driver, but in truth he was just an under-trained chauffeur with a tenth grade education who wound up with the President and First Lady in his back seat because seniority counted for something.  While Fabulous Howard was starring in his own Hollywood rags-to-riches story, William Greer retired on disability in 1966 with a stomach ulcer.

Salim Hamdan
Salim Hamdan is a Yemeni chauffeur who served as the personal driver for Osama bin Laden until he was captured by US forces during the invasion of Afghanistan.  Initial terrorism charges didn't stick, but a conviction on providing material support for al Qaeda got him a sixty-six month sentence.  Of course he had already done sixty of those months at Guantanamo.  In November 2008 he was transferred to Yemen; in January 2009, he was released.  Mr. Hamdan, who got the chauffeur gig through his brother-in-law (ObL's bodyguard), said that he was paid $200 per month.  Given the billions that ObL had, I'd say such penurious wages alone speak to the injustice of al Qaeda.

Erich Kempka, with Il Duce and Der Fuhrer. 
Salim Hamdan discussed another chauffeur, Erich Kempka, at his trial.  Herr Kempka  joined the Nazi party in 1930 (member number 225, 639) and was member #2,803 in the SS.  He held the rank of SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer (Lieutenant Colonel) and served as Adolf Hitler's driver from 1934 to 1945.  He was present at the bunker when Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide; in fact, Kempka assisted in the cremation of their bodies.  Kempka was captured by US forces at the Berchtesgaden.  He testified at the Nuremberg trials but was never charged with any crimes and released in 1947.  On the surface, Mr. Hamdan does seem to be the victim of a double-standard.

Okay, now to Saint Odran, whose contrast to the other drivers surely justifies his canonization.  As mentioned above, he was Saint Patrick's charioteer.  One day he stopped the chariot and asked of Patrick could take the reins.  They swapped places and continued briefly.  They drove straight into an ambush which Odran had spotted.  Naturally the attackers killed the passenger, whom they assumed was the good bishop, and let his driver live.  Odran is the first Irish Christian martyr, the only one in the early era.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  John 15:13

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