During the month of June, we have the feast day of one of the most popular saints, St. Anthony of Padua (June 13). We also have the feast day of another popular saint, St. Thomas More (June 22).
St. Thomas More is the patron saint for lawyers, and for good reason—he was a great and holy lawyer himself. (There are not too many canonized lawyers).
St. Anthony, on the other hand, is the patron saint for lost items. I am sure this is the reason he is so popular. Many people who have a devotion to St. Anthony of Padua may be hard pressed to say anything about his life story. Rather, often it is his success in helping people find something they lost that has helped make him one of the most prayed to saints.
But have you ever wondered why a particular saint may be a patron of a particular subject? Thomas More is easy, but why is Anthony of Padua the patron saint of lost stuff? Or how about the other saints, such as St. Cecelia and musicians and so on?
There is no one reason a saint gets assigned a particular cause; they all have their own stories. So here is a basic summary of just some of the more popular patron saints.
Let’s start with the ones already named. St. Anthony of Padua is the patron saint of lost items because of an incident that happened when a novice stole Anthony’s copy of the book of Psalms. St. Anthony prayed for its recovery, and while the novice was running away he had a disturbing vision that demanded he return the book, which he did promptly.
St. Cecelia is the patron saint of musicians even though there is no indication anywhere that she played an instrument. She was assigned this cause because the story of her martyrdom, also known as an “acta,” tells how she sang God’s praises in her heart as she was suffering martyrdom.
St. Jude, the popular saint of hopeless causes, is an interesting one. From ancient times the Apostle Jude has been assigned this task most likely because he shared the same name as Jesus’ betrayer, Judas Iscariot. It was considered a hopeless situation for poor St. Jude, so he soon became the patron saint for all hopeless cases.
In 1958 Pope Pius XII declared St. Clare of Assisi the patron saint of the modern marvel of television because of a story from her later years, when Clare was too ill to go to Mass. In her disappointment she was able to see and hear the Mass in real time on her bedroom wall—not bad, considering she died in 1253.
One of the more popular patron saints is the patron for travel. How many people have a badge or medal on the dash or hanging from the visor of their car that is dedicated to St. Christopher? His name gives us a clue: Christopher literally means “Christ-bearer.”
The story of Christopher is steeped in ancient legend. It seems as though he was a giant, over seven feet tall and that he used to help carry people across a raging river so that they would not drown. One day a small child came to him to be carried across the river. While Christopher was carrying him, the child became heavier and heavier, almost impossible for him to bear. When Christopher and the child reached the other side, the saint complained that it seemed as though he was carrying the weight of the world, the child was so heavy. The child said that not only was he carrying the weight of the world, but also the one who made the world. The child then revealed himself to be the Christ child.
One of the more popular saints in Catholic piety is St. Blaise, the patron saint of throat ailments. This likely comes as a result of a story that while he was in prison for the faith he cured a young boy who had a fish bone lodged in his throat. Still to this day it is common to have the blessing of throats on his feast day, February 3. Since it comes during the time of the year when people tend to have sore throats, it is likely that Blaise will remain popular for a long time to come.
One of the more curious patron saints is St. Gerard Majella, the man who is the patron saint of expectant mothers. This arises from the tradition that Gerard was accused by a pregnant woman of being the father of her child. Instead of defending himself, Gerard simply remained silent over the affair. She later changed her story, which led to the association of St. Gerard and pregnancies.
Finally, the story of St. Hubert, the patron saint of hunters, is a compelling one. It seems Hubert engrossed himself in hunting so much that he neglected his spiritual well being. He would never go to church and would rarely pray. One good Friday, as he was out hunting for a stag, he chased down the animal only to see a crucifix protruding from the head of the animal, between the antlers. He then heard a voice that said, “Hubert, unless you turn towards the Lord and lead a holy life, you will quickly go to hell.” Needless to say, this had a profound effect on Hubert, leading him to the spiritual life he was admonished towards.
Hubert is a good lesson for those of us who love the outdoors. As we enter into the summer months, we should be very mindful of our spiritual life and our weekly Mass attendance. Do not let the nice weather and the summer activities keep us from the more important things in life: Christ and our relationship with him.
There are thousands of saints, many of whom have particular causes associated with them. These are just a small handful of some of the more colorful saints and their causes.