Monday Morning Question: your icon

All over the web people use icons to define themselves on forums. Most places, that’s the only way others know us. I begin to think of regulars on certain forums as looking exactly like their icons and it’s a shock when they’ll mention something that makes them different from the persona they’ve put forward.

On some of my forums, I use the same icon I use here; on others, I use this one:

On my business cards, I used to use this image:


We try to pick aspects of ourselves for our icons that tell others about us in a form of visual shorthand. This makes sense online, but it’s hardly Β new. Christianity has long used icons to depict its saints and holy ones, and iconography (especially in the Orthodox church) has its own complex visual language, with each sign and color having its own symbolic meaning.

Back in college, when I lived in a house with eight other students, we got a ton of junk mail. A friend opened one and a prayer card fell out. I said, “Oh, Saint Anthony.” He said, “How’d you know that?” I flipped it over and showed him what it said. He replied, “No, no, no — you didn’t turn it over first. You just knew.”Β 

I said, “I don’t know — he’s wearing the brown robe, holding the child Jesus… Tonsure. It’s just him!”

After a while, you just know. You learn the iconographic language. One or two clues tell you who it is: one item for each hand, max. The clothes. What the person is doing.

Now for the question: you accidentally step into a time machine and find yourself two hundred years in the future. After the initial shock, you google yourself to see how the rest of your life went, and as it turns out, you lived a life of heroic virtue! You’ve been named a saint, and you have your own prayer card! Naturally you have to go look it up, and once you see it, you find the image on the prayer card, while only a drawing, and only lifting a couple of aspects of your life, perfectly represents you!

Mine would have me with a baby in a sling on my hip, my computer bag slung over my shoulder, a funky cap on my head, and I’d be wearing boots because there’s snow on the ground. I’d have an angel in the background and a book in my free hand.

Tell me about your image. What’s in your hands? What are you doing? Where are you? And what are you the patron of?


  1. whiskers

    A book in one hand, and a pen in the other. Some sort of wildly flamboyant hat… And I’d be dressed like a Gibson Girl, either in red or black or a combination of the two. I’d be standing in a library or sitting at a writing desk, and I like to think of myself as the patron of Making Things Work. I can usually turn a bad situation good, be it money, time management, food, etc…I just make things work.

  2. philangelus

    I like “Making Things Work.”

    I would definitely be the patron saint of the Impractical. Either that or the highly disorganized. πŸ™‚

  3. Ivy

    I’d be knitting, probably a sock. I’d be the patron of humble things. I know my purpose is tied to knitting. I knit socks more than I knit anything else. What’s more humble than a garment meant to be put on the foot and walked on all day long, hidden from view for the most part? And in this climate, try getting by without good socks.

  4. TL

    Nice πŸ™‚ this is a sweet idea πŸ™‚ I actually hope I will be humble enough that I will be forgotten in 200 years!! Or a family memory.. (Me and my cousins honor our grandma, we think she was a saint)
    If I were to be an official saint I would like to be like St Jean Vianney, passing down love for the parish, and for God through the catholic faith. πŸ™‚
    So I guess on my card there would be a church in the background, and people going there πŸ™‚ maybe I would be teaching CCD πŸ™‚

  5. Cricket

    This represents a meta-goal, rather than the real me. Patron of Balanced Life

    I’m walking along a winding path (life), carrying a balance. On one side of the balance is a clock (resources). On the other side is a basket we can’t see into (what we put in our life, or how we spend our time). My other hand is transferring something to or from the basket and the side of the path (we have to keep changing what’s in the basket as we journey through life). Around me is a set of concentric circles, possibly rising or setting (self, family, community, world), or maybe the basket or fulcrum is made in concentric circles.

    Iconographers will have long discussions over what is in the basket, in my hand, and along the path, with the net effect that everything gets included.

    Either God or an antagonist (or both) are also putting something into (or taking something out of) the basket. (The unpredictable.)

  6. Illya

    Woman with lots of kids around listening to a story being read. I would be the patron saint of grandmothers

  7. philangelus

    Cricket, there are a lot of pictures of angels with scales in their hands. Usually it’s meant to represent judgment. I like the idea of representing a balanced life much better.

    And as a professor of mine said in college, if you want them to keep discussing your literature for all eternity, leave a few unanswered questions. πŸ˜‰

  8. philangelus

    After analyzing my day, I’ve decided to add a basket of laundry into my prayer card. πŸ˜‰

  9. Capt Cardor

    I suppose I would be the patron Saint of Knowledge Seekers. I have always been curious about everything, so perhaps an icon of a book with a question mark on its binding might be appropriate.

  10. Kate

    I have no idea what my icon would look like, but I have a clear picture of my mother-in-law’s: a tea mug in one hand and a book in the other, with a crowd of children at her knee and knitting in a basket by her feet. She would be a patron of home education, or maybe of the formation of children.

  11. Amy Deardon

    Don’t have a clue. Mom, writer? Redeemed. Let God’s glory shine through my life!

    But have to say, I like the idea of the laundry basket πŸ™‚

    1. philangelus

      Amy, I think by definition only Jesus can be the patron of redemption. πŸ˜‰ But if you’d like to share the Laundry Piles with me, be my guest. In fact, you can even take the whole thing over for me. I promise not to miss it!

  12. knit_tgz

    Capt. Cardor, are you me? I was going for the question mark myself! I really love asking questions, seeking knowledge, trying to see the other side of every argument. Oh, well.

    Then I think I would have to be the patroness of making yourself look like a fool. And my prayer card would have me in full laughter on church, falling over my knees AGAIN, while a woman, looking concerned, tries to help me get up, and the priest, in the confessional, looks bewildered. This is the kind of thing you just can’t make up.

Comments are closed.