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A Patron Saint for Swimmers

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St. Adjutor (died 1131)
Feast day: April 30

 You've probably never heard of St. Adjutor. He is one of the thousands of local saints who never achieved the international fame of St. Anthony of Padua or St. Therese the Little Flower. But as the only patron saint for swimmers, he deserves a wider reputation.

Adjutor was born to a family of knights in Vernon, Normandy. When Pope Urban II came to France in 1095 to launch the First Crusade to liberate the Holy Land from the Saracens, Adjutor took the cross and with a company of 200 fighting men set out for Jerusalem.


The Crusade stalled for a time at Antioch where the Saracens besieged the city. One day Adjutor led a small party of knights outside the city walls on a scouting expedition. When they were far from Antioch, 1,500 Saracens ambushed them. Adjutor and his men put up a desperate defense, but it seemed hopeless. In the thick of the battle, as he cut and slashed at Saracens on every side, Adjutor called upon his favorite saint, Mary Magdalen. Through her intercession a violent storm broke over the battlefield. The terrified Saracens threw down their arms and fled.


Once the siege at Antioch was lifted Adjutor and his men joined the rest of the Crusaders in the conquest of Jerusalem, where he remained for 17 years as part of the Holy City's garrison. While on patrol outside Jerusalem Adjutor fell into another ambush, but this time he was captured. The Saracens dragged him off to one of their strongholds off the coast of Palestine where they locked the knight in a dark, dank cell and loaded down his wrists and ankles with heavy chains. From time to time his jailers took him from his cell to torture him, but Adjutor never lost his faith or his courage. He prayed once again to St. Mary Magdalen and once again she came to his help, breaking his chains and showing him a way to escape. Once he was outside the castle walls, he dove into the sea and swam for the shore, then walked to Crusader territory. He returned to his old comrades still wearing the broken chains from his prison.


Soon thereafter Adjutor returned home to Normandy where he built a chapel in honor of St. Mary Magdalen and became a Benedictine monk. The stretch of River Seine that flowed near Adjutor's abbey was troubled by a whirlpool that had taken the lives of many boatmen who had been caught in its current. At Adjutor's invitation, the local bishop came to the abbey to say Mass. Together the two men climbed into a boat and sailed toward the whirlpool. The bishop brought along holy water. Adjutor brought along the chain that had once bound his legs. At the edge of the whirlpool the bishop sprinkled holy water and gave his blessing. Then Adjutor took a link from his chain and cast it into the water saying, "It is as easy for God to free people from this whirlpool as it was for him to free me from my chains." Immediately the whirlpool became calm.


When St. Adjutor died he was buried in the chapel he had built for St. Mary Magdalen. He is still venerated by the people of Vernon as a favorite local saint and the guardian of swimmers and boatmen.


Craughwell is the author of Saints for Every Occasion (Stampley Enterprises, 2001) and Patron Saints Catholic Cardlinks (Our Sunday Visitor, 2004).     


  Copyright 2007 by Arlington Catholic Herald

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2007