St. IGNUcious versus St. Philomena

Published: [2020-08-29 Sat]


A few weeks ago, I mentioned on Reddit how I learned GNU Emacs in part to take my mind off of an emotional breakup. Someone replied with the following comment.

May Saint IGNUcious and the church of EMACS bless you in your further romantic endeavors.

(The Reddit user is referring to the Church of Emacs, which Richard Stallman, founder of the GNU project and Free Software Foundation, started as a parody religious movement. The name iGNUcious is a pun on the name Saint Ignatius of Loyola.)

Well, I belong to a serious church with serious saints, so I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about this comment. I knew it was a joke, so I felt like I should respond with something witty. However, nothing witty came – until the release of Emacs 27.1 on 11 August, which happened to coincide with the feast of Saint Philomena.

Saint Who? Saint Philomena

I cannot help but wonder if it was more than coincidence that the Emacs 27.1 release was cut on feast day of Saint Philomena.

St. Philomena’s story recently reached out to me and touched my soul in a deep way that I cannot easily explain. I encourage you to read her full life story as expressed in the nun’s vision. The short version: At age 13, Philomena’s father arranged her to marry Emperor Diocletian as part of a deal to preserve peace in her Greek state. Philomena had made a vow of virginity at age 11 (similar to the vows of celibacy that the religious make today), so she refused Diocletian’s marriage proposal. Refusing to take “no” for an answer, Diocletian imprisoned Philomena and ordered her flayed. She healed miraculously overnight. The next day, Diocletian tried to drown Philomena in the river, but she was miraculously saved. Then, Diocletian ordered arrows to be shot into her, but Philomena miraculously healed again. Diocletian tried again, but the arrows deflected and struck the archers. Finally, Diocletian beheaded Philomena. (Bear in mind that Philomena was a 13 year old girl when all this happened.)

I have admiration for Richard Stallman and the GNU project for their fight for libre1 software. Nowadays almost every software developer is using the GNU compiler whether he knows it or not. Linux (or GNU/Linux as Stallman prefers to call it) has taken over datacenters and phones around the world.

However, Stallman’s story pales in comparison to Philomena’s strength of will. Stallman gave up a normal career to create a libre operating system. Philomena gave up her royal life as an empress, endured horrible tortures at the age of 13, and died because of her dedication to what she believed in. (Also, Philomena is only one of many Christian saints with equivalently powerful stories.)

I’m sorry, but there is no contest.

St. IGNUcious (Richard Stallman)2 St. Philomena3
rms-350.jpg philomena-350.jpg
Self-proclaimed saint in the Church of Emacs Recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church
“Lone wolf” of MIT Greek princess
Prophetic look Beautiful young girl
Stare into eyes: nothing happens Stare into eyes: your soul melts with beauty and adoration
Crown of gray hair Crown of lilies, symbolizing virginity and martyrdom
Carries Lemote, symbolizing software freedom Carries arrows and palm fronds, symbolizing virginity and martyrdom
Refuses to use anything from Microsoft, Apple, or Amazon Refused to give herself to Diocletian: “I neither care for you as a lover, nor fear you as a tyrant.”
Tried to impeach God Chose the Divine Spouse over Diocletian
Willingly sacrificed job and career at MIT Willingly sacrificed life as an empress
Advocates abortion4 and antinatalism Saves small children from danger
Ate mystery substance from foot5 Ate the body of Christ
Devotions: removal of MS Windows, using Emacs Devotion: the cord (to preserve chastity)
Can’t cure his own hand pain Several miraculous healings, heals others too


I’m not offended, but I’m going to stick with Christian saints. Plus, Philomena is adorable. :-)




I’m from southern California. Around here, “libre” carries the same definition of “free-as-in-freedom,” except “libre” is much easier to say.


Image credit: Wikipedia


For high resolution images, see


I do give Stallman credit for the novelty of his pro-abortion argument. As someone who has examined both sides of the issue, I have never seen an argument that applies quantum mechanics to the question of whether an entity has a soul.


If you are fortunate enough to have never seen this video, then consider yourself lucky.