When we, or a loved one, are ill, praying for a swift recovery—and for some, a miracle—is part of our healing process.
That’s what patron saints are for. Defined by catholic.org as “special protectors or guardians over areas of life” that “can include occupations, illnesses, churches, countries, causes—anything that is important to us,” a patron saint “can help us when we follow the example of that saint’s life and when as ask for that saint’s intercessory prayers to God.” (Read: 5 Powerful Prayers for the Church)
Catholics, the website added, pray with saints, not to them. “You have chosen someone you could trust, or someone who understood your problem, or someone who was close to God. Those are all the reasons we ask saints to pray for us in times of trouble.”
Here are five saints we can call on for specific ailments that affect us and those we love.
St. Agatha: Patron Saint of Breast Cancer Patients
Born in Sicily, Italy, in 231 AD, the beautiful Agatha dedicated her life to the Lord at a very young age. She declined all suitors, including the Roman judge Quintianus, who threatened to torture and imprison her if she didn’t accept his proposal.
Agatha remained steadfast to her faith, prompting her spurned suitor to first throw her in a brothel where she was abused, then torture her for real. Pinchers were used to slash off her breasts, which St. Peter restored with a celestial ointment while she languished in jail. St. Agatha’s feast day is celebrated on February 5.
If you have breast cancer or know someone who does, ask for St. Agatha’s intercession through this prayer.
St. Blaise: Patron Saint of Throat Diseases
Before he was bishop of Sebaste, Armenia, Blaise was a physician known for his extraordinary healing powers. Legend has it that a poor woman approached him to report that a wolf had run off with her pig. Blaise ordered the wolf to return the pig to the woman. The wolf obeyed, delivering the pig, alive and unscathed, back to its owner.
His claim to fame, however, was curing a boy choking from a fishbone stuck to his throat. This cemented his reputation as the protector and healer of throat-related diseases. (Read: A Medical Doctor Explains Why You Should Try Functional Medicine)
Since the 16th century, the Blessing of the Throats has been practiced in Masses during St. Blaise’s feast day of February 3. After the homily or final blessing, a priest, deacon, or lay minister will place two blessed candles, crossed and joined together by a ribbon, on the throat of a parishioner, and say, “Through the intercession of St. Blaise, the bishop, and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
St. Paulina: Patron Saint of Diabetics
Born in Italy in 1865, Amabile Lucia Visintainer and her family migrated to Vigolo, Brazil, when she was 10 years old. Active in her local parish and community, she was only 15 when she and a friend established the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, after taking care of a dying woman abandoned by her family.
Complications from diabetes marked the later years of her life. First, her finger and then her right arm were amputated. Months before her death in 1942, she was totally blind.
Sr. Paulina is the first female Brazilian saint. Canonized by Pope John Paul II on May 2009, she marks her feast day on July 9. Oftentimes, the faithful would recite this prayer to ask for her intercession for healing from diabetes and its complications.
St. Denis: Patron Saint of Headaches
This third-century bishop, said to be France’s first, was also one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, a group of martyrs invoked by Catholics to get them through the plague known as the Black Death. (Read: ORATIO IMPERATA on the Threat of COVID-19)
The Patron Saint of Headaches supposedly earned this title in Montmartre, where a Roman soldier decapitated him. As the story goes, Denis’s corpse picked up his head and continued walking, to the spot northeast of Paris, where an abbey in his name now stands. St. Denis’ feast day is on October 9.
St. Apollonia: Patron Saint of Toothaches
Christians suffered plenty during persecution in Alexandria under Emperor Philip. Among them was the revered deaconess Apollonia, whose teeth were knocked out by an angry mob.
That did little to rattle her faith. When the mob threatened to throw her into a pit of fire, she died a martyr in 249 by diving into the flames herself, all in the name of God. Her feast day is on February 9.