Lives of the Ain’ts: Onerous the Astute

r.j. kushner
3 min readJun 12, 2024


Butler’s “Lives of the Saints” was first published in 1756. Scholars have since discovered that there were several last-minute trims to the text prior to publication. This series presents the saints who did not make the final cut.

Born in 301 A.D. (#ad), Onerous the Astute is the only saint removed from Butler’s Lives who was revered for both his piety and his pies.

Early life

Onerous was short and squat and spent most of his life claiming to live in Alexandria, despite actually living in a nearby suburb. His parents, Ron and Sheila, were wealthy merchants who made their fortune selling athleisure togas. Onerous rejected his parents’ wealth at the age of 49, at which point he chose to retreat into the wilderness.

The wilderness

Legend has it that during his wanderings Onerous came upon a ram who recited “Elmer’s Prayer” in full, only once stopping to check its notes. Onerous attempted to free the ram from a thorn bush but ended up getting himself stuck, as well. The ram managed to escape on its own but refused to free Onerous, despite his pleading. Onerous eventually got free three days later after letting go of the pickle he’d been holding onto.


Onerous would become known for his impassioned sermons, radical for their incorporation of “props.” He gradually grew a large number of followers, only three of whom he personally owed money. Few of his sermons exist today, but he is often credited with the lyrics to “Cruel to Be Kind.”

Refusing “earthly comforts” during his wilderness years, Onerous is said to have resided in a cave full of bears. “Blessed are the bears,” he would tell his followers, although he often looked for excuses not to go home after work.


Onerous had many disagreements with other leaders in the early church, particularly regarding the church’s use of the word “epistle,” a word Onerous believed the word to be “filled with lust.” It was also Onerous who first pushed the theory that Jesus was “bald as a cueball,” arguing at multiple councils that the church should declare it as doctrine.

Ultimately, the church rejected Onerous’s arguments and had him banished from church lunches, a punishment leaders later amended to include banishment from “looking in at church lunches through the window.” Onerous’s controversial views would later be reexamined in 1209 during the Council of Argh, where church elders conceded that Jesus’s hair “may have been thinning around the temples a bit.”

Pies and death

Onerous’s famed pies were baked for his followers using a combination of sand and bark. His most loyal followers consumed the pies, believing them to be sacred, although they rarely asked for seconds. In 382 Onerous was imprisoned for saying “Here piggy piggy” to a Roman soldier during one of his sermons. Onerous died in 399 after mistaking a rattlesnake for one of his prized loofahs.

The Feast Day of Onerous the Astute (Feb. 30) is celebrated by placing a tree stump on your head and walking among heathens while asking, “Stump? What stump?”

Onerous is considered the patron saint of being too tired to brush your teeth.

A Prayer to Saint Onerous:

Onerous, Onerous

Give it to me straight

When am I going to

Catch a freakin’ break?



r.j. kushner

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