St. Polycarp, Patron Saint of Earwig Sufferers
WEST CHESTER, Pa.–Catholics, as well as Anglicans and Lutherans, suffering from an earwig, a scrap of a song that gets stuck in a person’s head and plays on auto loop for days on end, can find relief by praying to St. Polycarp of Symrna, the patron saint of earwig sufferers.
Polycarp, who died in 167 C.E. at the of eighty-six, suffered from the earliest recorded case of an earwig. According to church records, he spent the last thirty-seven years of his life with a pagan fertility chant bouncing around in his brain. Some scholars, however, question whether those thirty-seven years were human or earwig years.
The church also tells us that a rival for the post of Bishop of Symrna, which was awarded to Polycarp by John the Apostle, placed an insect (forficula auricularia) in Polycarp’s bedding in a fit of jealously.
When the Blessed Virgin Mary, who knew something about warding off penetration, appeared to Polycarp in a dream that night, Polycarp awoke and immediately stuffed his ears with cow dung, the only known prophylactic against earwig invasion at the time. Early Christians mistakenly believed that the insect (forficula auricularia) was responsible for getting chants and prayers stuck in their heads, a belief later declared heretical by the Council of Trent.
Sadly for Polycarp, the cow dung, which had not been blessed, caused an infection in his ear; and that spread to his brain; and he lay in a coma for months with a fever of 103°. When he awoke, the pagan fertility chant had set up housekeeping in his brain.
Many of the faithful who met Polycarp following his illness said that he was not the same man he had been before. He was often unable to attend to what people were saying to him, and he was therefore thought to be rude. In addition, the earwig distracted Polycarp so badly that he was no longer able to speak in compound-complex sentences, and this once brilliant orator was reduced to giving sermons to people for whom Latin was a second language.
Through all the personality changes brought on by the earwig, St. Polycarp remained unshaken in his faith. He forgave the rival who had cursed him, and he accepted his new status with grace and humility. He even stopped taking cold baths and chanting Jesus’ name incessantly in an effort to cure himself.
Toward the end of his episcopate, a violent persecution broke out in Smyrna against Christians. “Although he was fearless,” the church says, Polycarp retreated to a neighboring village, spending most of his time in prayer. He was betrayed, for some mysterious reason, by a young boy, and horsemen came by night to arrest him.
They took him to the proconsul, who ordered him to blaspheme Christ not only to cure his earwig but also to save his life. Polycarp refused and was taken off to be burned at the stake. The flames did not touch him, so he was run through with a spear and he died. Legend says that the pagan fertility chant that had so bedeviled Polycarp died with him.
Persons who attend churches named after St. Polycarp around the world, are frequently cured of earwigs, even those of several years’ duration, as soon as they place money in the collection basket.
“I had not been able to get ‘I Kissed a Girl’ out of my head for several months,” said Helen Grabowski of Milwaukee. “After I went to St. Polycarp instead of my regular parish and put $20 in the collection, I was cured.”
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