St. Pantaleon: Patron Saint of Trousers and Lotteries

St. Pantaleon, (c. 275-305) whose name in Greek means “mercy for everyone,” was one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

13th-century icon of St. Pantaleon at St. Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai
13th-century icon of St. Pantaleon at St. Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

I love the saints! I love everything about them. Especially the weird, implausible, miraculous and sometimes revolting stories.

Do you know why St. Lucy is the Patron of Eyesight and Ophthalmologists? Because pagans tortured for being a Christian by having her eyes gouged out!

Allow me to say it for you, “Ewww!”

But I don’t love Lucy any less — nor do I doubt the miracle God wrought by giving her a pair of brand-new eyes before she was actually killed.

Have doubts that St. Columban saddled and rode an actual bear? Are you questioning rather Sts. Francis and Blaise really parlayed with wolves? How about St. Brendan’s finding a sea monster the size of a small island or St. Columba shooing away the Loch Ness Monster? St. George vanquished a dragon? St. Anthony talked to fish? Sure — why not? If God can heal lepers and banish demons, why couldn’t He do the above miracles also?

Why would we doubt any miracle? Miracles abound even today! And I’m not counting serendipity, Jungian synchronicity or just plain-old happenstance. I mean legitimate miracles over which people convert to Catholicism. The Vatican Archives are full to the gills with wall-to-wall stories of people at death’s door standing up and serving coffee and pound cake for those who came to visit them on their deathbeds.

And, frankly, St. Lucy’s story is hardly one of the really weird legends surrounding the saints. But one shouldn’t be turned off by the word “legend.” The English word legend comes from the Latin word legenda and has no connection with untrue stories. Rather, it means “things you should read/learn about.”

Speaking of which, I’d like to introduce you to St. Pantaleon―Patron of Trousers and Winning Lottery Numbers.

Yes. You read that correctly.

I know there are a lot of Catholics who are now reading this article thinking, “Gee! I coincidently have a lottery ticket in my pants pocket!”

I recommend you be attentive to the legenda I’m about to tell.

St. Pantaleon, (c. 275-305) whose name in Greek means “mercy for everyone,” was one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

He was the son of St. Eubula and her husband, Eustorgius of Nicomedia, a rich pagan businessman. After his mother’s death, he fell away from the Church and studied medicine under the tutelage of Euphrosinos. After his training, he became a physician to the Emperor Galerius.

St. Hermolaus, Bishop of Nicomedia, brought him back to the Church when he convinced Pantaleon there was a physician greater than he―Christ Himself. Hermolaus urged Pantaleon to remember that faith is to be trusted over medical knowledge saying, “But, my friend, of what use are all your acquirements in this art, as you utterly ignorant of the science of salvation?”

Pantaleon then converted his pagan father by healing a blind man in his presence merely by invoking Jesus’ name. At his father’s death, the saint received a huge fortune. He freed his father’s slaves, distributed his wealth to the poor and selflessly served their medical needs. However, green-eyed colleagues saw him as a threat. (You get a lot of that from atheists and pagans.) They denounced him to the Emperor Diocletian in AD 305. The emperor, however, had a warm spot for the Christian physician and hoped to spare him his impending martyrdom. Pantaleon refused to apostatize himself and, in fact, started preaching to the emperor. This wasn’t a good idea when it came to Diocletian who wanted nothing more than to wipe out all Christians and be worshipped as a god.

But Pantaleon was having none of it. In fact, he turned around and healed a paralyzed member of the emperor’s court. That was another bad move on Pantaleon’s part as the emperor thought the miracle was an example of “magic.”

Pantaleon was handed over to the torturers and was burned with torches. Christ appeared to all present, extinguished the torches and healed Pantaleon. This apparently only infuriated the pagans. A tub of molten lead was set to a boil and the saint was thrown into it. The fire immediately went out and the lead became cold to the touch. The pagans then tied a great stone around Pantaleon’s neck and was threw him into the sea―oddly, the stone floated and Pantaleon, being a pretty smart cookie, hung on to it.

He was then thrown to wild beasts but the animals padded up to him and fawned over him. The animals refused to leave his side until Pantaleon blessed them. The saint was bound to a wheel but the ropes immediately gave way. Also, the wheel snapped in two. One of the torturers had had just about enough of Pantaleon’s shenanigans and grabbed a sword hoping to behead him. The sword bent and the executioners abandoned their paganism and converted to Christ.

Pantaleon begged God to forgive his torturers and, for this reason, boys and girls, is the reason why he is called Panteleimon (Greek: “mercy for everyone”). At being comforted in the knowledge that God was with him, the saint earnestly desired martyrdom and gave the executioner permission to kill him. The man obliged and beheaded the saint on the spot. At that, his severed head produced both blood and a white liquid like milk.

In his Victories of the Martyrs, St. Alphonsus noted in his chapter on Pantaleon that he had personally witnessed a vial of the saint’s blood liquefy in Naples on the saint’s feast day.

That’s it for the icky part. Here comes the fun part…

Apparently, Catholics have been pestering this poor [man] saint for winning lottery numbers for several hundreds of years who then responds in dreams. (I’m going to presume that some have even gone so far as to ask him to win at bingo as well.)

St. Pantaleon has always been popular amongst Italians, and no less so in Venice. Because the saint’s name had been common there, it’s become associated with the city. The name has subsequently given to a character in a recurring in commedia dell'arte, (i.e., plays that slamming door farces full of pratfalls, seltzer bottles down the pants, coconut cream pies in the face plays that are full of puns and misunderstandings). Shakespeare, being Catholic himself, created a character named Pantalone in his hilarious play As You Like It and had the character wear pants instead of knee breeches. The trousers become so associated with Venetians and this literary character that the word “trousers” became the Italian word, pantaloni. Thus, St. Pantaleon has become the Patron of Trousers — and probably pant suits. (I just thought that needed to be pointed out.)

Now we know who’s taking up the slack of prayers after having ripped one’s trousers in embarrassing social situations.

In addition to trousers and winning lottery numbers, St. Pantalone’s sphere of influence also includes physicians, midwives and livestock. He’s also invoked against headaches, loneliness, consumption, wild locust attacks, witchcraft and accidents.

He also, and I’m not making this up, accepts prayers to stop kids from crying. (I came to this knowledge a few years too late, but at least I can recommend Pantalone to the lady in the airplane seat ahead of me.)

Like journalist Tom McDonald always suggests, let’s Catholicism weird ( That definitely won’t be a struggle considering the stuff we believe.