This originally appeared in our Oct. 23-Nov. 5 print issue.
We go to certain people to ask for a favor or for help in some difficulty.
Same goes for the spiritual side.
All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1 should help us realize that we have unlimited help available from scores of saints.
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments tells us in its Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy that saints and blesseds are our “intercessors and friends,” and some are “patrons of professions, of particular circumstances, like in childbirth (St. Anne) or death (St. Joseph) or in obtaining specific graces. In other words, some saints have one or more specialties — like St. Anthony for finding lost articles and St. Lucy for eyesight.”
Of course, we should ask our Blessed Mother for anything because she’s the intercessor par excellence — she’s Queen of Saints, in fact.
Matthew Bunson, author or co-author of 35 books, including Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of Saints, Revised (2003) and John Paul II’s Book of Saints (OSV, 2007) gives two reasons why we should go to saints for particular intercessions.
Bunson says: “We are a family. If we think of the saints as members of that family, as you would turn to members of family like uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters, why would we not turn to members of the family in heaven for their help?”
Secondly, says Bunson: “As we have gotten to know saints over the centuries and come to understand more about their lives and what they went through, we can turn to them when we face similar problems.”
Lisa Hendey, founder of CatholicMom.com and author of A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms (Ave Maria Press, 2011), does just that. She turns to St. Joan of Arc when praying for all of the teens “who need fortitude in the face of so many attacks in this day and age. As a mother of teens, I pray frequently through her intercession for my sons, but also for myself to face my daily battles with greater courage and conviction.”
Sometimes it’s obvious why a saint has a particular patronage. It’s perfectly logical that St. Matthew is patron of bookkeepers and bankers — and why St. Thérèse of Lisieux is (among several specialties, including illnesses, pilots and missions) also patron saint of florists. “Who better than the Little Flower?” asks Bunson.
St. Luke, for instance, is patron of physicians and painters because he was a doctor and is believed to have painted a portrait of the Blessed Mother. Archangel Gabriel is the patron saint of messengers and of postal employees. “It makes sense,” says Bunson. “He’s also patron of radio. He was one of history’s great announcers.”
And who better to turn to than St. Joseph? In fact, after his spouse Mary, Joseph has scores of patronages — more than any other saint. As St. Bernard wrote, “There are some saints who have the power of protecting in certain specific circumstances; but St. Joseph has been granted the power to help us in every kind of need.” (St. Joseph’s patronages include fathers and craftsmen; he is also often invoked in selling houses.)
Want help using television wisely? Ask 13th-century Clare of Assisi, whom Pius XII named the patron saint of television in 1958. When she was too ill to leave her bed to attend Mass, she saw and heard Mass on the wall of her room. Providentially, a nun from Clare’s order, the Poor Clares — Mother Angelica — founded EWTN. (The Register is a service of EWTN.)
Recently, Isadore of Seville was named patron saint of the Internet. Among the reasons: His sixth-century dictionary of sorts, called the Etymologies, was arranged like a database.
On the topic of modernity, CatholicMom.com’s Hendey has a connection with recently lived intercessors. The 19th-20th century St. Mary of the Cross MacKillop of Australia is her “go-to” patroness for help in remaining faithful to the Church and her teachings. A victim of a temporary excommunication, the saint refused to speak out against the Church or blame her false accuser. Notes Hendey, “She is a patroness for me when I need help remaining faithful to our Church when it is under attack from so many fronts.”
Few know St. Maximilian Kolbe as the patron saint of addicts and those in recovery from addiction because he was martyred at Auschwitz during World War II by a lethal chemical injection.
“He is my personal intercessor when I struggle with ‘addictions’ in my own life — with the things that separate me from God and become misplaced priorities,” Hendey says. “His lifelong faith, his devotion to our Blessed Mother, and his valiant courage give me strength when I am feeling weak.”
Hendey also finds Thomas More to be a terrific patron for families. Most known as a statesman and martyr at the hands of Henry VIII, he always prioritized the faith formation of his children.
At St. Lucy Church in Newark, N.J., which also contains the National Shrine of St. Gerard Majella, the faithful turn frequently to both of those saints for assistance.
As noted above, Lucy is protector of eyesight and patroness of the blind. An early fourth-century martyr, the story goes that Lucy had her eyes gouged out, but her sight was restored by St. Raphael, another patron of eye problems — and travelers too. An 18th-century Redemptorist brother, Gerard is a patron of motherhood and mothers; he is known for assisting woman through difficult pregnancies and those who are having difficulty conceiving.
As Bunson says, saints can “resonate in the same way we meet somebody, and something about that person makes us strike up a friendship with them.”
No matter the request, there’s a specialist waiting in heaven.
Register staff writer Joseph Pronechen
is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.