The term 'saint' generally refers to holy (dead) people canonised by the Catholic Church. There are over 4,500 saints recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, of which 60 are named John. Between 1588 and 1978, 82% of the saints canonised were men. Since 1978, this has fallen to 67%.
A patron saint can be one who shares your name, one who is associated with your occupation, or one who champions a cause that is relevant and special to you. For whichever reason, your patron saint has something in common with you and a vested interest in praying for you; Catholics do not pray to saints, they pray with saints and ask the saints to pray for them. While most patron saints are associated with rather normal causes, there are definitely some that tend towards a more intriguing set of causes.
Patron Saints for Modern Life
Saint Clare of Assisi - Patron Saint of Television
The patron saint of television was a remarkable woman... What? You didn't know there was a patron saint of television? Of course! It's good old St Clare.
She ran away to become a nun as a teenager, and Saint Francis of Assisi became one of her best friends. She founded an order of nuns called the Poor Clares, and used to wake up in the middle of the night to check to see if they were all tucked up in bed.
Before she died in 1253, she became too ill to attend daily mass. As she lay in her bed, she would see visions of the mass on the wall of her cell, just like there was a TV. Pretty cool, huh? St Clare was canonised only two years after her death, in 1255, and her feast day is celebrated on 11 August.
Saint Isidore - Patron Saint of the Internet
Saint Isidore lived in the 6th and 7th Centuries in Spain. He was obviously born into an exceptionally holy family; three of his siblings have also been canonised as saints. As a child, his older brother confined him to a cell as punishment for being a lazy student. Thus isolated, Isidore felt motivated to learn more and more about the outside world. In his later life, he compiled an index of over 1,000 manuscripts, and some say he was the originator of 'search terms'. His feast day is on 4 April.
Catholic Online has written a prayer for those using the Internet, asking for St Isidore's intercession:
Almighty and eternal God,
who has created us in Thy image
and bade us to seek after all that is good, true and beautiful,
especially in the divine person
of Thy only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
grant we beseech Thee that,
through the intercession of Saint Isidore, bishop and doctor,
during our journeys through the Internet
we will direct our hands and eyes
only to that which is pleasing to Thee
and treat with charity and patience
all those souls whom we encounter.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Patron Saints for Criminals and other Societal Ills
Saint Caedwalla - Patron Saint of Serial Killers
Caedwalla apparently had a power fetish of some kind and roamed around Europe killing various members of royalty in order that he could take their thrones. He later repented and became an awfully good boy. Maybe we should stress here that St Caedwalla is actually the patron saint of repentant serial killers. He died ten days after his conversion to Catholicism, on 20 April (his feast day), 689.
Saint Nicholas of Myra - Patron Saint of Pawnbrokers
Yes, believe it or not, St Nicholas of the Santa Claus lore is the very same St Nick who just happens to be the patron saint of pawnbrokers. Now we see where all those toys come from...
St Nicholas lived in the 4th Century in Asia Minor, where he was ordained a bishop and participated in the Council of Nicaea. His reputation both as the saint of pawnbrokers and as the precursor to Santa Claus derives from one act of generosity to the desperate; he threw three bags of gold into a house, late at night, to save three girls from prostitution. His feast day is 6 December.
Saint Monica - Patron Saint of Alcoholics
The saintly Monica was not a drunk; her pagan husband was. So, not only is she the patron saint of alcoholics, she is the patron saint of those who have to put up with them. And saintly she must have been, for she was reportedly able to successfully nag him into sobriety, even without the 12 steps - as in the '12 Steps' of Alcoholics Anonymous. Monica lived in the 4th Century and is also the patron saint of difficult marriages. Her feast day is on 27 August.
Patron Saints for Those who Have it Rough
Saint Blandina - Patron Saint of those Falsely Accused of Cannibalism
During the second century, those working for Marcus Aurelius were ordered to do anything possible to encourage the condemnation and execution of professed Christians. As the Christian rite of Holy Communion (partaking of the flesh and blood of Christ) sounded particularly eerie, Christians were often accused of cannibalism. Her feast day is 2 June.
Saint Dymphna - Patron Saint of the Mentally Ill, Runaways, and Rape Victims
Obviously, if any population needs their own saint, these are the ones. We would never begrudge them that. It's just that Dymphna's path towards sainthood is a little on the odd side. She was the daughter of a Celtic chieftain during the 7th Century who went a tad crazy when Dymphna's mother died. Like many a widower, he had a difficult time finding any women who could measure up to his first wife. Unlike your average widower, however, he decided that his only option was to marry his daughter, Dymphna. She ran away from home (probably a good choice in this situation), but her dad tracked her down and beheaded all of the friends she had stayed with. At 15, Dymphna herself was beheaded for again refusing her father's incestuous demands. Makes you think twice before you whine about how annoying your parents are. Her feast day is 15 May.
Saint Drogo and Saint Germaine - Patron Saints of the Really Ugly
St Drogo, who lived in the 12th Century, was so physically repulsive that the sight of him frightened the townspeople. When he was in his twenties, a cell was built for him attached to the church so that he could protect people from his appearance. He remained there for the rest of his life (another 40 years or so), his only contact with people was receiving communion through a small window connecting his cell to the church. His feast day is 16 April.
In comparison, perhaps St Germaine should be considered homely. Although she was apparently still ugly enough, as her unsightliness was reported to be the main reason her parents abandoned her as a young child in the first place. She was a shepherdess in the 16th Century and spent her life isolated from society, sleeping in stables or under stairways. She died at the age of 22 and her feast day is on 15 June.
Four Patron Saints for those Rejected by Monks and Nuns
Believe it or not, there was once a time in which there was a surplus of people wanting to be monks and nuns. People actually gave up everything they owned, left their families, trudged off to convents or monasteries, and were turned down. Not only that, this apparently happened often enough that there are four patron saints, just for these rejected people: Saints Benedict Joseph Labre (died 1783), Henry II (died 1024), Joseph Moscati (died 1927), and Rose of Viterbo (died 1252).
Saints and Shrines of Family Life and the Lack Thereof
16 Patron Saints of Bachelors
Sixteen. Sixteen patron saints of bachelorhood! Being a single man can be a tough row to hoe, but do bachelors really need 16 saints? For the record and for any desperate bachelors, the 16 are:
- Benedict Joseph Labre
- Boniface or Taursus
- Gerald of Aurillac
- Guy of Anderlecht
- John Rigby
- Joseph Moscati
With names like those, it's not entirely surprising that they were bachelors, but take your pick.
Our Lady of the Milk and Happy Delivery
This shrine to Mary was built during the 17th Century in St Augustine, Florida, and is dedicated (surprise, surprise) to breastfeeding and childbirth. A good cause to be sure, but the name of the shrine itself is reason enough for inclusion on this list.