For many Catholics, Saints are viewed as being the heroes of the church. While they are not directly worshiped, Saints are held in such regard that Catholics will often pray to them in order to request their aid. With the exception of the archangels, Saints were ordinary people, who lived ordinary lives. During their lives, each and every saint was considered to be a positive role model. Their selfless and generous natures could be seen in their actions, and devotion to helping humanity.
Many Saints had a life mission that drove them towards helping others, while spreading the word of God. Through their actions and efforts, Saints were able to help humanity as a whole, in their own way. Their actions, made them legends of their own time, and today they inspire the way in which we live out our lives.
- 1 The Road to Sainthood
- 2 10 of the Most Recognizable Patron Saints
The Road to Sainthood
You may be wondering how someone becomes a saint. In truth, Saints are not chosen so much as they already are. The way they lived out their lives and the actions they took, are what defines who can or can not be canonized as a saint. Someone who has lived a life of heroic virtue in the devotion and service of God, Christ and the Church, can be considered. So long as there is evidence of their actions, both martial and written to support the claims of their deeds.
Actions alone, are not always enough to confirm someone’s sainthood. With the exception of Martyrs – those who have died for their beliefs – a posthumous miracle is also needed. Known as beatification, candidates need to have been proven to have preformed such a miracle, at least twice. Then and only then will a Saint be officially canonized.
To date, there are over 3,000 recognized saints, and many more remain uncanonized. As it is not the pope, but God himself who decides who is or isn’t a Saint. There will always be unknown Saints that continue to help with humanities salvation, by performing any number of unseen miracles.
10 of the Most Recognizable Patron Saints
As there are over 3,000 known Saints. It would almost impossible for us to name them all. So here, we are giving you a list of some of the more notable Saints, that have had an impact on our day to day lives.
Queen of all Saints, St. Mary the Virgin
Arguably the most important Saint of all. Mary the virgin mother of Jesus Christ is said to have been born without the burden of sin. Like her son, she to has been exalted by the divine grace, and stationed above all angels and men.
The life of Mary and her role in humanities salvation, was foretold in the Old Testament. The events of her life are documented in the New Testament, and while the last of her years on earth remain undocumented, it is believed that she either went to Ephesus, or remained in Jerusalem, before she was assumed into heaven body and soul.
The Virgin Mary is associated with may good things, most importantly, Motherhood. While she may not be our mother in the physical sense, she is considered to be the spiritual mother of us all. Through her, our spiritual lives are birthed and nurtured. From baptism, till death, she stands by our side, guiding us along the path of the Lord.
St. Anthony of Padua
St. Anthony, born Ferdinand Bouillon. Joined the Order of Canons Regular of St. Augustine, at the age of 15. He would later become a Franciscan, and took the religious name of Anthony, when he joined the Order of Friars.
Associated with finding lost items, lost people, lost causes and most importantly lost souls. St. Anthony’s voice alone, is said to have had the power to convert non-believers after hearing just one of his sermons. It is also said, that he was such an effective orator, and his sermons were so powerful and moving. That even Catholics that had strayed the course or turned their backs on the church. Would repent and return to the Church in droves. A talent that earned him the nickname, “The Hammer of Heretics.”
Born the son of a minor officiant of the Roman Empire. St. Augustine spent his youth partying and living in sin, while living with his concubine and mother of his child. He would continue to live this life of debauchery, up until he had a spiritual awaking at the age of 32. From that point on he quit his career, life of sin, partying and decadence, and dedicated his life to God. Choosing to commit to a life of poverty and devotion. He become a bishop for the church, and wrote over 800 sermons and letters on religious topics.
This miraculous conversion and turn of life, is shared as an inspiration for those who struggle with addiction. St. Augustine is considered a patron saint of two apposing forces. The patron saint of brewers for his partying days, and patron saint of addiction, for those that are struggling with a vice or habit that they wish to kick.
While there is some doubt about the legitimacy surrounding the life of St. Barbara. She still remains mentioned in the Roman Martyrology. The doubt comes about, by the claims that surround her death, and torture at the hands of her pagan father. It is said that he had locked her away in a tower to preserve her from the world.
In secret, St. Barbara became a Christian, and refused the marriage proposal she had received through her father. As part of her defiance, she had three windows (one for each trinity) installed in her bath house, instead of the planned two. When her father returned from a trip, St. Barbara acknowledged herself to be Christian.
Angered, he responded by drawing his sword in an attempt to kill her. To which she prayed for salvation and the tower wall opened up and she was miraculously transported away. Her father pursued her to a mountain gorge, where one shepherd rebuffed him, and a second betrayed her whereabouts. It is claimed that the second shepherd was punished, by being turned to stone, and his flock was turned into locusts.
Imprisoned, St. Barbara is said to have been cruelly tortured. She held true to her faith, and every night her cell would fill with light. Each and every morning, her wounds were healed, and flames would snuffed out as soon as they were brought close to her flesh. In the end, she was condemned to death by beheading, and her father carried out the death-sentence. As punishment for taking his daughters life he was struck by lighting and consumed in flames.
St. Barbara’s tomb is said to be a site of miracles. Today she is regarded as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and the patron saint of those at risk of sudden and violent deaths at work:
- military engineers
- anyone else that works with gunpowder and explosives.
Her association with thunder and lighting has many Catholics praying to her during severe storms. She is also invoked to offer protection for survivors of accidents that arise from explosions.
St. Gertrude the Great
From the age of four, Gertrude was educated at the monastery of St. Mary in Helfta. It is not clear if she was offered to the church as a child oblate by devout parents. Or if she was in fact an orphan, as implied in her writings. Remains debatable among many scholars even to this day.
An avid lover of the written word, Gertrude penned many books in her lifetime. Sadly only a few remain today with many being lost throughout the ages. Up until 1281, she was heavily focused on studying and writing on topics of secular knowledge. That was until at the age of 25, when she experienced her first vision. A vision that fundamentally changed her life, and passions. Studying scripture and theology became her priority, as she devoted herself to personal prayer and meditation.
With the shift in her studies, came a change in not only what she wrote about, but also the way in which she would write. Gertrude began writing spiritual treatises and became one of the great mystics of the 13th century. As her visions continued throughout her life, she began to practice nuptial mysticism. A form of devotion that allowed her to become a bride of Christ.
In one of her visions, St. Gertrude the Great communicated directly with Christ. In it, he promised that 1,000 souls in purgatory, would be released each time that she would pray for him to do so. Today, St. Gertrude is the patron saint of the west Indies. Catholics invoke St. Gertrude the Great to release the souls stuck in purgatory. By reciting the prayer that she wrote, they are able to have up to 10,000 souls release. For more information, see our article on the St. Gertrude the Great’s Prayer.
St. Joan of Arc
Born to peasant parents in the french village of Domrémy, in approximately 1412. Joan of Arc grew up a simple farm girl. She was illiterate, yet deeply loyal to King and Country, while remaining a devout Catholic. It is said that at about the age of 13, she had a vision in which St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret, told her to drive the English out of France. These visions were to become more frequent, and more vivid as Joan got older. When she was just 16 years of age, she approached the local garrison in Vaucouleurs. Where she delivered a prediction of defeat at the Battle of Rouvry. Several days later, the messengers arrived to deliver the report of the military’s reversal. Claiming the she had received visions that told her that the army would fall without her aid, they had Joan disguised as a pageboy, and escorted to the French Royal Court at Chinon.
The Joan was only 17 when she first meet the uncrowned King Charles VII. Moved by her assertions of victory, Charles sent Joan to the siege of Orléans as part of a relief mission. Just a mere nine days later, and her efforts in Orléans saw victory. She gained prominence when she returned to the front lines after taking an arrow to the shoulder. Joan of Arc may never have taken a life herself, but she was instrumental in devising the strategies that saw victory. She flew the banner, inspired the men to push on, and saved the lives of many when she foresaw canon fire.
At just 19 years of age, Joan of Arc would die a martyr in 1431. Not on the battle field, but tied to a stake and set aflame with accusations of heresy and cross-dressing as a man. Just one year prior, she was ambushed by pro English French nobles, who were paid to hand her over to the English.
The English could not accept the idea that God would have sided with the French during their conflict, and decided that Joan of Arc must have been gaining influence from the Devil. During a rigged and unfair trail, she was sentenced to death for heresy and witchcraft. Her body was burned an additional two more times, in an effort to reduce it to ash, with her remains being cast into the Seine River. Her death was not in vain however. As the tactics used during the siege of Orléans, would go on to influence the battle tactics used by the French army in later skirmishers. Though it may have taken another 20 years for the French to win the war. They nonetheless, would have surely lost, if not for the influence and guidance that they received from Joan of Arc.
The false chargers of heresy and witchcraft, were later overturned when Pope Callixtus III, authorized a nullification trial in 1452. In this trial it was discovered that the accusation of cross-dressing were falsified, as she only wore military garb for protection, both on the battle field, and while in prison. Her actions and visions were also found to have been from divine intervention, an not as a result of witchcraft.
Joan of Arc was canonized in 1920, and is the patron saint of:
- the Woman’s Army Corps
Today, her integrity, courage, and strength of character, not only inspires us. It also reminds us that anyone with the right convictions, can make a difference.
St. Michael, the Archangel
St Michael is in fact an angel and has never been a man. This technically means that St Michael is not a saint. He is however, recognized as the protector and guardian of the church, the Pope and of the people. For this reason St. Michael is prayed to for assistance in driving back evil influences.
St. Michael is the leader of Gods army and was instrumental in casting Satan and his fallen angels out of heaven and into hell. He stands by our side at the hour of our deaths and guides us to the judgment that awaits us.
Even though St. Michael is not a canonized saint. He nonetheless remains a patron saint that watches over:
- the Pope
- police officers
- military members.
For more information on St Michael, see our article on the St. Michael prayer.
St. Paul of Tarsus
Born Saul of Tarsus, a Greek speaking Jew from Asia Minor. As member of the Pharisees, he was a zealous Jew that not only hated and condemned Christians. He regarded the followers of Christ to be dangerous heretics, and blasphemers. To him Christianity was nothing more then a cult set about to destroy Judaism.
Commissioned by the Sanhedrin, he was tasked with hunting down and exposing all Christians. Where necessary, he was to eliminate any Christians that posed an immediate threat to the Hebrew religious teachings and way of life.
Christ being the merciful savior that he is, did not smite Saul. Instead, while Saul was on the road to Damascus. He was thrown from his horse and rendered blind. Hearing the voice of Jesus, he was asked “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4-6). In hearing the voice of Christ, Saul realized that in persecuting Christians, he was opposing Jesus himself.
Having realized his folly, he joined Saint Peter’s cause and spread the word of the lord, preaching the Gospel far and wide. Now calling himself Paul, he made three journeys throughout Greece and Asia Minor. He was eventually taken prisoner by Caesar and executed by beheading. Thus turning a once dangerous enemy of Christians, into one of their greatest martyrs.
Born Simon Peter, a humble fisherman. St. Peter not only went on to become the first Pope. He was also the first of the Apostles to be ordained by Jesus. Simon became a follower of Christ, after a long night of fishing yielded not a single catch. At the behest of Jesus, he cast his net one last time, and immediately caught a great number of fish. So many in fact, that the net began to tear and it took the efforts of another group of fishermen to help pull the net out of the water. Both boats were so overladen with fish that they were close to sinking. Jesus declared the men, including Simon’s brother Andrew, the fishers of men. Meaning that they would go on to spread the word of the lord, to the people, bringing them to the Lord.
Following the death of Jesus, it was Peter who first walked into the tomb to verify reports that the tomb was empty. Though he saw that it was indeed empty, he left without telling the rest of the Apostles of what he had seen. Peter also the first of whom, that Jesus appeared before, following his resurrection. He gave Peter three chances to admit his love for Christ, and three times he did, thus annulling his denials.
In 64 A.D. St. Peter was martyred in Rome, when he was crucified upside-down for spreading the Gospel to the people.
St. Vincent de Paul
Born to peasant farmers in 1581, Vincent de Paul grew up working on his family’s farm, herding livestock. At a young age, he displayed a talent for reading and writing. So when he was 15, his father sold an oxen to pay for his education, at a college that adjoined the French monastery of Friars Minor, in Dax. He was able to pay for his on going education, by tutoring other students. Graduating at just 19 years of age, he was ordained in 1600. Unfortunately this was in violation of the Council of Trent’s established regulations that forbade the ordaining of anyone under the age of 24. As such he resigned from the position that was on offer to him, and continued with his studies.
Five years later, while sailing back from Castres, after arranging to sell his inheritance. He was abducted by Barbary pirates, who sold him into slavery. For the next two years, Vincent was traded two more times. Finally becoming the property of a former priest. His new master, Guillaume Gautier, had converted to Islam in order to gain his own freedom. While working the fields, one of his master’s three wives, came and questioned Vincent about his own faith. Convinced that Vincent’s faith was true, she berated her husband for abandoning his own Christianity. A remorseful Guillaume, spent ten months planning their return to France. Boarding a small boat, they crossed the Mediterranean, landing in Aigues-Mortes in late June, 1607.
Having experienced a life of poverty and struggle, as a slave. Vincent shifted his focus to the poor and destitute. Working alongside the Daughters of Charity, he aimed to help feed and cloth the poor, and provide shelter for women and children. As he became more familiar with the needs of the people, he found financial backers that helped to fund hospitals, gather relief funds for the victims of war, and it is said that he help to free some 1,200 gallery slaves from North Africa.
Today, there are many charities all over the world, that have been setup in his name. Many claim that he was their founder, with most sighting him to be their patron saint. The charity and compassion displayed by St. Vincent de Paul during his lifetime, still serves as an inspiration for us all today.
St. Vincent de Paul is the patron saint of:
- spiritual help
- lost articles
- Saint Vincent de Paul Societies
- Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory
- Vincentian Service Corps.