St. Dominic Savio, a student of John Bosco who died at the age of fifteen before fulfilling his ambition of becoming a priest. He was an annoyingly holy little kid—the kind of boy who broke up fights, destroyed dirty pictures, and refused to engage in any boyish vulgarity—which means the other boys thought he was a class-A dork.
St. Augustine of Hippo, the renowned bishop and Church father, who lived a debauched life of drunkenness before converting to the faith. Hmmm … being the patron saint of drunks would make sense, but brewers? How effective of an intercessor could St. Augustine really be on behalf of such a debauchery-prone product?
St. Vincent Ferrer, a fourteenth century Dominican friar who "built up" the Church during the Western Schism. He did it by converting thousands of people across Europe, preaching regularly, performing miracles, and advising Pope Benedict XIII in his attempts to bring unity to the Church. Kinda weird, isn’t it, how he got this patronage due to a metaphor? Shouldn’t he have at least been a carpenter or something?
@ BUSINESS PEOPLE
St. Homobonus, who was a highly successful merchant and tailor in twelfth-century Italy, was known for integrity in business and intense spiritual devotion. But rather than dedicate himself to the religious life, he believed God wanted him to use his business savvy outside the Church, so that his prosperity could be used to support the poor.
St. Adrian of Nicomedia, whose arms were amputated during his martyrdom.
St. Gertrude of Nivelles, a Benedictine abbess who once asked God to help rid her monastery of mice, because too many of them were taking up residence in their stores of grain. Her prayers were answered. Know who else likes to get rid of mice? Cats.
St. Alexander the Charcoal-Burner, a third-century bishop and martyr who was very handsome but wanted to live a chaste life, so he chose an occupation that left his face continually blemished with black charcoal dust, which was not so appealing to the ladies.
St. Agnes, who so prized her virginity that she refused to marry the son of a powerful Roman prefect. She was rewarded for this virtue with a death sentence, but since virgins weren’t allowed to be executed, the authorities dispatched her to a brothel to, um, change her status. But God kept her miraculously pure, smiting with blindness all those who tried to rape her. Eventually she was decapitated.
St. Raymond Nonnatus, who miraculously survived a delivery by caesarean section in the thirteenth century, though it ended up killing his mother. It is unclear why mothers-to-be, who are probably stressed-out about their pregnancy already, should rely on help from a guy whose mom died in childbirth. But supposedly this is comforting.
Sts. Crispin and Crispinian, brothers who preached the Gospel by day and made shoes at night. Kind of like superheroes, except for the part where they got martyred, because a genuine superhero wouldn’t let himself get beheaded. He’d block the executioner’s blade with a well-crafted shoe and make a dramatic escape.
St. Vitus, because people in the Middle Ages got the idea that dancing on the feast of St. Vitus would bring them good health. There’s also neurological condition named after him: St. Vitus’ Dance, otherwise known as chorea. It causes involuntary muscle contractions (similar to epilepsy) in the hands and feet. Apparently in the olden day’s this looked like dancing. Standards were lower back then. His association with dancing led to his patronage of dancers. And comedians. And entertainers. And oversleeping, but for a totally different reason.
@ DEAF PEOPLE
St. Frances de Sales, who once catechized a deaf man so the fellow could take his first communion. In order to communicate this to the deaf guy, Frances ended up inventing his own version of sign language. One assumes this language contained an unusual emphasis on the words for "eat" and ‘drink." And "transubstantiation."
@ DISABLED PEOPLE
St. Giles, who lived in solitude with a deer as his only companion, until one day a hunter shot at the deer only to miss and hit Giles in the leg, giving him a lifelong disability in the form of a limp. Also part of the story? During his injury, the deer nurtured him with her milk, leading to Giles’ patronage of breast feeding and nursing mothers. We kind of wish this were a joke, but not every wish comes true.
St. Francis of Assisi, who preached to birds, tamed a man-eating wolf, worried about accidentally stepping on worms, and generally was the Al Gore of the thirteenth century.
@ EXPLOSIVES WORKERS
St. Erasmus (a.k.a. Elmo), after whom the meteorological phenomenon St. Elmo’s Fire is named. Legend has it that, while he was being tortured for his faith, lightning fell from the sky and electrocuted everyone around him, though Erasmus was saved. Protection from lightning = protection from accidentally blowing up the C-4 you’re manufacturing. Makes sense.
St. Agatha, who doesn’t really have any good reason to be associated with fire. The closest case we can make is this: Agatha’s breasts were cut off during her martyrdom. She is typically shown in iconography holding these amputated breasts on a platter. By squinting and employing a morbid imagination, one might reach the conclusion that they’re sorta shaped like bells. And bells? They ring during fires. Case closed.
Excerpted from Pocket Guide to Sainthood by Jason
Boyett. Copyright © 2009 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Reprinted with
permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. You can
purchase books from the Pocket Guide series here.