I could not assign the 666th post to any saint, not even Tsar Nicholas II, who will be popping up in a few hours. Yeah, he's a saint (more or less), but that's a topic for another post.
I could, of course, write about Lucifer, the fallen angel. I probably should, in fact, but I won't. For a while I have been thinking about the top posts. These aren't my favorites, but they are the posts that get the most hits. And conveniently, there is a big gap between #6 and #7. So to indulge my own vanity -- an appropriate exercise for the 666th post -- I am doing a greatest hits retrospective. The Top Six at 666. And yeah, I feel as guilty about this as I should.
1. The most popular post, with 708 views, is Saint Florian of Lorch. This is a good place to start because it is so humbling. The post is not clever, insightful, or especially well written. The appeal, apparently, is the photograph, which of course I jacked from someone else. To my embarrassment, I wasn't even acknowledging sources back then, but I might have found it at religioustattoos.net. Whatever the source was, it is clear from looking at the traffic sources statistics that image searches for St. Florian tattoos are driving the popularity here.
2. The second most popular post, with 412 views, is Saint Rita of Cascia. This one is also driven by image searches, though not entirely. Actually, I imagine that it is sad and creepy that she's the second most popular post. She is the patron saint of really bad marriages. She was married too young to an abusive adulterer... I am sure the story offers some comfort, perhaps even hope, to victims of domestic abuse. Perhaps the saint even provides support and aid. But it is not pleasant to imagine who is searching for information and images of Saint Rita and why they want it.
3. The third most popular post, with 353 views, is Saint Lawrence of Brindisi. Here, I can indulge in the deadly sin of pride, even if most of the traffic is being driven by image searches for artwork I didn't make. Lawrence was an unusually accomplished person, really distinctive in three areas. His trilateral accomplishments called to mind Triangle Man from the song "Particle Man" by They Might Be Giants. Since he figured into the wars against the Turks, I also pasted in a link to TMBG's "Istanbul Not Constantinople," featuring cartoon work from Steven Spielberg's Tiny Toon Adventures. Given all this borrowed material, you might wonder at the source of my pride. The difference here is that the linkage between TMBG and Saint Lawrence might not have been obvious to anyone but me. In fact, it's probably still not obvious to anyone but me. But it's driving traffic toward the saints, so I will take it.
4. The fourth most popular post, with 346 views, is Saint James the Greater. I flatter myself to think that the content might be worth reading. It is a rumination on how difficult Jesus was to be around, something we sometimes miss when we talk about the apostles. There was a line in the Communion service: "Happy are those who are called to His supper." James was scolded, questioned, berated, and eventually martyred. Maybe he's happy now, but it must have been hard for an apostle to feel blessed while tramping from town to town, being called a blasphemer and a heretic, begging for food and a place to sleep, while your leader keeps reminding you that you aren't worthy but God loves you anyway. I don't know if that observation is driving the traffic, but I think it is worth making.
5. The fifth most popular post, with 284 views, is Saint Nathaniel Bar-Tholomew. Here again, jacked images (in this case, from The Brick Testament) drive much of the traffic. The grisly images of him flayed and beheaded are also intriguing. The content's not bad; his one line from the Gospels is quoted and his legendary exploits after the Crucifixion are discussed. But I don't think the content is driving the traffic. Image searches seem far more common than content searches. Those who argued that a post-literate future is headed our way may be on to something.
6. And the last in our series, with 220 page views, might be the most important post of all 666. The lay-out for Samuel the Prophet is poor, though the stolen graphics are appealing. But I would like to imagine that the content, which is really just an intro and extended quotation from 1Samuel 8:11-18, resonates with some folks. Samuel is the last judge of Israel; after him, they are governed by kings. In the quotation, Samuel warns the people about monarchy, but of course they don't listen and bad things happen. His warning is worth thinking about today, as we struggle to empower a government to do good works with the knowledge that it will often be staffed by people who are avaricious, gluttonous, vain, lustful, proud, jealous, and wrathful. In fact, the only deadly sin they'll likely skip is sloth. Samuel's argument was not libertarian nor anarchistic, and perhaps I don't explore it as thoroughly in the article as I should, but I hope that by calling attention to it, other folks will give it some thought.
"Vanity, definitely my favorite sin." John Milton (the Devil, not the poet), played by Al Pacino in The Devil's Advocate.
"Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." Ecclesiastes 1:2.