Who is the patron saint of the Internet?

The Internet is a vast open ocean of knowledge ranging from how to fix your clogged toilet and where to find the nearest dry cleaners to the meaning of language you have no idea about and to the year when the world came to being (4004 B.C., just so if you are curious.) Not that the Internet has obliterated the places of encyclopedias or dictionaries, but it has outranked popularity for its convenience with your fingertips without getting your fingers flipping pages after pages. So when I came across an article that the Catholic Church has a patron saint for the Internet, my pique spurred me to write about it.

It is no other than St. Isidore of Seville, a man of God who was keen on anything in the world’s knowledge. His ambition to know everything was sanctified in making Etymologiae, meaning Origins. It is a significant encyclopedia on everything from grammar to medicine, law, religion, and war. But that doesn’t end it. It encompasses pace, animals, ships, clothes, etc. Until the renaissance, the 20–volume magnum opus was a chief reference book in Europe. In the 1990s, a group of Catholics related Isidore’s achievement to the Internet, which the late Pope John Paul Second agreed with but didn’t extend to the patron-saint naming process.

I think it’s fitting to regard Isidore as a Parton saint of the Internet in a religious hint of expectation that he will use his spiritual guardianship of the Internet productively and extensively. Naive as I may be, I hope there will be more pros than cons to using the Internet for knowledge of the world. You don’t have to be Catholic, of course. That would be like refusing to serve someone at a restaurant or a fast food joint because they are different from you.

Auto-correction and Titivillus

Writing has never been easier these days than in the bygone days before the advent of the computer. If you are unsure about how to spell “Tomato,” then the computer will spell it for you by way of auto-correction. And it can even reconstruct your sentences like a pro. The magic is inside the computer, as if it has a mind and even a soul, as it were. This wizardly power of auto-correction can sometimes, however, lead you to an embroglio of nonsense, especially when writing emails or tweeting. Quite devilish, so I think and wonder: are things like auto-correction and the likes a wicked invention of science or science of diabolical existence? Hence, I am talking about Titivillus, the patron demon of scribes.

The birth of Titivillus could trace back to the 13th century when Franciscan theologian John of Wales pinpointed the malicious demonic trickery for the scriber’s mistakes. That’s not a footless excuse for the faux-pas made in a beautifully ornamented medieval script. In medieval times, copying the passages of the Holy Scripture was a painfully punctilious task for a monk to accomplish with perfect penmanship and exquisite illuminations. And the job cost a good amount of his youth with arched back, squinted eyes, and cramped arms and fingers, not in the least due to the time spent scribing. Toiling (even though for the glory of God) and Rejoicing (for the joy of self-fulfillment), Sorrowing always hoovers over the glories. Titivillus often brings this Sorrowing by making the scriber err in labor, such as misspelling or miscopying. When that happens, a corrector scraped off with a penknife or an acidic solution was applied to loosen the ink. Or sometimes he just made little dots under a wrong word, meaning the reader should ignore that bit. In case of more significant errors, the passages were sometimes lined through, and the correction was written in the margin or copied on a smaller piece of parchment and glued into the book.


To think of it, Titivillus has not returned to the Ninth Circle of Hell, always making himself a reason to stay as long as humanity continues writing. Writer’s block is a dark cloud hovering over the soul’s palace, the dome of thoughts. Philological carbuncles, including misspellings and awkward syntax, combine the demon’s interruption and the writer’s fear of writing. The fear is more than devilish trickery or neurotic obsession because it stifles creativeness and imagination of the writer. Still, I cannot help but think that today Titivillus manifests himself in the form of auto-correction, which can change the entire meaning of a whole sentence, often most embarrassingly and awkwardly. You agree?

The Pope and the Heretic by Michael White

I first learned about Giordano Bruno through a tweeter thread about Shakespeare discussing his one of many influences, including this Don Quixote-like miscreant Dominican priest who wrote The Art of Memories, the subject I was and still am keen on to improve my regressing memory. Since then, Bruno has resided in my memory chamber as an enigmatic pariah, a formidable rebel without compromise. So when I came across this book by Michael White, a former member of the 80s pop group Thompson Twins, I knew I had to read it.

White describes Bruno as a martyr of enlightenment, thinking ahead of his time. Unfortunately, Bruno was born into the wrong place at the wrong time, so he suffered from the Catholic Church’s authoritarian rule that dominated the World’s knowledge. However, Bruno’s theory that Jesus was preternaturally a superb magician and therefore not the Son of God, not to mention that the Holy Ghost was the spirit of the World and that Satan would be saved, was sufficient to raise the eyebrows of the ecclesiastical figures. Also, he opined that the stars seen in night skies were actually suns and that there were other worlds in the universe where living beings like humans existed. I speculate such an opinion might have influenced a modern-day belief that we are not alone in this universe because there are extraterrestrial beings. All these ideas were indeed revolutionary. But unlike Galileo, who was said to murmur, “Still, the earth circles round the sun” after he was acquitted of heresy, Bruno was stubborn in his ideas. He proudly defied the Church’s intention to pardon him if he would recant before the death sentence. In his excellent lyrical portrayal of the dramatic confrontation, White sees it as the microscopic representation of the conflict between religion and philosophy, myth and truth, superstition and science.

Notwithstanding White’s admirable wealth of knowledge used in defense of Bruno, I cannot help but think that White’s stance on Bruno overlooks or connives at some facts. The Catholic Church put him at stake on account of his theological errors, deemed dangerous to the spiritual formation of the Church and the Faithful as a priest to the Church. Bruno was not a willing martyr of his ideas but a Simon Magus-like figure trying to trade his knowledge for recognition in the arms of different sects of Christianity, such as Calvinism, Lutheranism, and Episcopalianism, across Europe.

It’s an irony that rather than the man written about, the man writing about him turns out to be a genius in writing. Perhaps White, a former musician, attributes this to his lyrical rhythm of narration drawn from his emulous erudition. Moreover, he writes the language of the general reader in the panoply of academic disciplines, and the reader will find no time for disorientation or disinterest. This book carries a tone of what the Italian anti-Catholic activists campaigned against the Church, with Bruno as the symbol of persecution against what they believed in. Nevertheless, it is worth reading it if you are a proponent of Giordanism or just a curious bystander like me.