Feast of the rain saint
Jim Bradshaw, LSN columnist
The weather on June 8, the feast of St. Medard, could tell us what kind of summer we’re going to have.
One of the reasons Acadiana is so lush is because it is so wet. This is a semi-tropical place known for its humidity and rainfall. It has been like this since time immemorial, but still some Frenchmen say our summertime rains are nothing more than St. Medard’s revenge.
In the medieval days of France, Medard was the guy to pray to when times got dry. He’d usually produce a healthy rainfall sooner or later, but sometimes his believers got impatient and threw his statue into the river, just as a gentle reminder.
St. Medard (457-545) was Bishop of Vermandois, a French county that was in what is today the Picardy region of northern France. He was born at Salency in Picardy. He was made a bishop at the age of 33 and became one of the most revered prelates of his time. Besides being a supposed rainmaker, he is patron of vineyards, brewers, captives and prisoners, the mentally ill, and peasants.
There are many stories of how he became a “weather saint.” One is that Medard gave away one of his father’s finest colts to a poor peasant who had lost his horse. Immediately afterward there was a torrential rain, and everyone was soaked to the skin except the generous youth. At some point a heavy rain in June began to be referred to by some Frenchmen as “Saint Medard watering his colts.”
As a child he was said to have once been sheltered from the rain by an eagle that hovered over him. That is why it is said that he protects those who work in the open.
The practice of praying to St. Medard — and dousing him – followed Frenchmen wherever they went and now, according to the folklore, he takes his revenge on the good Frenchmen of Acadiana as well as those in France. The legend has arisen here that if it rains on his feast, it will rain for the next 40 days. Some older folks in Acadiana refer to this day phonetically as “samida.”
There is no scientific basis to give credence to the lore, but there must be some basis for a tale that has lasted for nearly 1,500 years,
I didn’t look at every June 8 in my weather records but scattered thunderstorms pop up regularly in the south Louisiana forecast at this time of year. Typically, early June is the time when our “summer pattern” of afternoon showers created by moisture from the Gulf and warming temperatures begins and we can count on rain with reasonable regularity, That is, unless it is one of those summers — that also come with reasonable regularity — when high pressure settles down on top of us, thankfully fending off hurricanes, but also creating hot, dry, drought-like conditions.
The most memorable St. Medard’s day of recent times may have been in 2001 when Acadiana was trapped under the lingering influence of Tropical Storm Allison. It did not rain for 40 days afterward but parts of Acadiana got from 10 to 30 inches during an 11-day span.
That did not exactly match the St. Medard tradition, but Allison’s outburst gave us much more rain than we would normally get over any 40-day period. Medard just compressed his vengeance.
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.