Roman Catholics have a veritable galaxy of canonized saints to pray to for various needs and occasions. We love our saints! Look at the marquee of any Catholic church and you will see the church is most likely named for a saint unless it is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God, or the Holy Trinity. Right under the name of the church, you will read, ‘Roman Catholic Church,’ and then the menu of Masses offered each week. I think only the Episcopalians and Anglicans name some of their churches for saints and those are usually ‘big’ names like St. Paul, St. Andrew, St. Matthew, etc., dutiful apostles and martyrs.
There are saints you never heard of, I’m sure, like Saints Dymphna, Januarius, Peregrine. Dymphna is the patron of run aways and people with depression and mental illness because she ran away to avoid a brutal father and was thus considered mentally unstable. Januarius, a martyr, is the patron of people with blood disease because his blood, kept in a vile, liquefies every year on his feast day. Kid you not! Peregrine is the patron for those with cancer because he had it himself and cured someone else of it.
Yes, we Catholics have over 7,000 canonized saints (meaning they are declared saints through a process which proves they were instrumental in the restoring of health to people through three miracles or they died as martyrs for the faith or simply led peerless lives of holiness recognized through miracles after death. Their lives and miracles fall under categories the Church has deemed acceptable. Let’s see, do you have an unruly teen-ager, an impossible friend or family member, a goal you need to achieve but looks impossible? Saint Jude is your go-to guy! He’s the patron of impossible cases and extremely popular even among non-Catholics. This is due to a passage he wrote in his epistle that everything is possible if one believes. Are you a struggling lawyer? Saint Thomas More who stood up against Henry VIII, is on your side! Too bad he got martyred for it! A librarian? Saint Jerome will be there for you! He loved books and even had a library in the desert where he lived! Afraid of water? Want your boat to get you to the other side? Saint Brendan the Navigator will get you there! Are you in the medical field, say, a technician, nurse, lab scientist? Saint Albert the Great, a chemist, will hear you out. So will Cosmos and Damian, brothers who were allegedly twins and pharmacists. (Their parish is near me in the town of, you guessed it, Twinsburg!) Accountants, beekeepers, police officers, bankers, even actors and comedians? We gotcha covered. Bachelors, bakers, and blacksmiths? No worries: you have an advocate! Two saints intercede for actors and comedians. Genesius of Rome was an actor who while entertaining the emperor and making fun of Christians had a religious experience and became a Christian. You wouldn’t believe the medals with his image you can buy on the Internet. Big sales, I hear, in Hollywood! Saint Lawrence, the martyr who was burned to death on a grille reportedly told his tormentors to “turn me over; I’m done on this side!” is the intercessor for comedians!
The recent list of saints as patrons does not include St. Christopher because he was demoted several years ago. I loved this guy. He was the patron of travelers and he appealed to my sense of adventure and as I matured, he appealed to the reality that sometimes someone must carry us through rough waters, as sung in Simon and Garfunkel’s song, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Picturing Christopher, whose name means Christ-bearer, crossing an angry river with crushing waves and the Child Jesus on his shoulders is my romantic version of danger at sea, when you are rescued by a caring, brave, and strong person. He was replaced by St. Raphael the Archangel, and you can’t argue with an angel when you’re lost.
One of my favorites is St. Simon Stylites. He’s the guy who built a tower in Syria where he was a monk famous for his holiness. He perched himself on the top of the tower, 18 meters high to get solitude for prayer. But sure enough, pilgrims kept coming and clamoring for his teaching and his prayers, so he kept adding to the tower to get closer to God. Not good theology for sure! I thought it was remarkable to live on top of a tower buffeted by sandstorms and a magnet for lightning – which he did for over 40 years! Imagine having his food hoisted up and his, well, other needs roped down to caretakers on the ground. Ewe! But turns out non-religious do these things too like the stunt man who lived on top of a flagpole until the Cleveland Indians baseball team would win the pennant in the mid-1950’s. Saint Simon is patron of people afraid of heights! LOL! But I think he should add high-rise building contractors and builders of treehouses to his repertoire. Finally, another favorite is St. Clare. I don’t know why she is the patron of laundry workers and goldsmiths, but I was baffled for a long time as to why Pope Pius XIII declared her the patron of television in 1958. This gal lived in the 13th century way before the Morse Code, maybe even before smoke signals! Turns out that when she was a nun and very ill, she could attend Mass only by having a vision of it on her wall while it was being offered in the church some distance away. Wow! In my opinion here she is the developer of streamed Masses, maybe even Zoom!!! She’s got to be the patron of the Internet!
Saints have done remarkable things with their lives, and they did it all for God. Church history has clouded much of it with hagiography, in other words, the ‘stuff’ of legends. But I enjoy some of this legendary narrative by looking for the truth, however small, recorded in this person’s life. You might want to dust off some old books on saints and pick a few favorites for spiritual guidance. Remember the believable ones are very human. Many saints were not Catholic, but we can think of them as saints. Consider, for instance, Anne Frank, Etty Hillesum, Ghandi, etc. When you know more about saints, you will appreciate your faith even more. Check out your own patron – from your baptismal name. One hefty series of books about saints is Butler’s Lives of the Saints. There are several others that you can order from Amazon or your local library.
Most of all, find some examples of a spirituality you can imitate from the lives you read. And have fun doing so!