Saints are people from the past whom Catholics can look up to for encouragement and inspiration. These champions of the faith are examples of what it means to serve and follow Christ. Many of Even the most legendary Catholic saints were ordinary humans like anybody else, who . They had families, friends, desires and aspirations. Yet they chose to serve humankind by sharing the Good News of Jesus before all else.
There are many Catholic saints to learn about. In all, the Church recognizes over 10,000 individuals who met the appropriate criteria. We assembled this list of famous saints every Catholic should know about as an introduction to the topic. Read on for a list of the main Catholic saints and their backgrounds.
St. Michael the Archangel, Patron Saint of Soldiers and Police
St. Michael the Archangel is one of three angels, including St. Gabriel and St. Raphael, that the Church refers to by name. The Bible mentions him on more than one occasion, establishing him as an important figure in both heavenly and earthly affairs.
Catholic Tradition attributes St. Michael as the angel who will battle Satan in the prophetic account of Revelation 20:1-3. St. Michael also defeated Satan when the devil first fell, which is why Catholics honor this archangel as the patron saint of people working in dangerous vocations like the police force and the military.
Catholics revere St. Michael for his dedication to God and his impressive strength. In fact, most artistic renditions of the archangel show his moment of triumph in the battle against Satan. St. Michael is also a practical saint for Catholics to look up to, as he puts the will of God above all else and displays a fierce, loyal determination for good to triumph over evil.
When Catholics seek defense and protection in various circumstances of life, many will pray to St. Michael. This petition, known as the “St. Michael Prayer,” makes the following requests:
- Defense in battle
- Protection against the wickedness of Satan
- That God would rebuke Satan
- That God would cast Satan and his evil spirits into hell to spare people on earth from their mischief
St. Christopher, Patron Saint of Travelers
Before the modern advances enjoyed today, travel was a dangerous affair. The common folk had to do most of their traveling on foot and in groups, making journeys seen as easy by today’s standards quite a task to undertake. The story of St. Christopher begins during this time.
St. Christopher was a large, strong man from the Eastern Mediterranean region. In seeking the most powerful master to serve, he chose Satan and began a life of thievery. This saint would prey on travelers until one day he tried stealing from a man who made the sign of the cross.
St. Christopher learned that this man feared God more than Satan, and he chose to give up his life of thievery to serve God by helping travelers cross the river near his house. One day, he helped a young boy across the river, but the boy’s weight grew until St. Christopher felt no burden in the world could be heavier. Upon crossing, he realized he had been carrying the Christ Child. In helping travelers cross the river, he had been carrying out the work of Jesus.
Catholics often wear necklaces depicting St. Christopher during trips for the saint’s protection and blessings. Traveling can cause some anxiety, but remembering St. Christopher and meditating on God’s protection can put one’s mind at ease. This sentiment makes St. Christopher one of the most popular Catholic saints on this list.
St. Jude, Patron Saint of Lost Causes
Patron saints are those whom the Catholic Church regards as an advocate for specific situations in a Catholic’s life. But sometimes, a saint’s patronage can cover a broad range of needs, which is the case with St. Jude.
St. Jude Thaddeus is the patron saint of miracles and lost causes. He represents hope for the hopeless and miracles for those who feel they are facing impossible circumstances. These circumstances can include grave illness, intense need, deep depression and any other desperate situations.
During his life, St. Jude was a disciple of Christ who went on to pen the Letter of Jude in the New Testament. He followed Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19-20 to spread the gospel throughout the world and suffered death as a martyr because of his preaching. St. Jude was a close relative to Jesus and is often depicted with the image of Our Lord held close to his heart.
St. Anthony of Padua, Patron Saint of Lost Items
Some Catholics refer to St. Anthony of Padua as the “Wonder Worker” because of the many miracles that have occurred as a result of his intercession. St. Anthony lived in Portugal during the 12th and 13th centuries and started his journey to sainthood by joining the Augustinian Order. He soon left to join the newly established Franciscan Order, hoping he could be a martyr for the sake of Christ.
St. Anthony was a gifted preacher and would go out into the world to teach people about the Catholic faith. God gave him the ability to defend the Church from heresies, which earned St. Anthony the nickname the “Hammer of Heretics.” He spent the majority of his time preaching and living in Padua, Italy, where he garnered great love and respect for his humility and gentleness.
All his miracles and sermons served the purpose of winning lost souls to Christ. For this reason, he is revered as the patron saint of lost items, as well as being an encouragement to unmarried women, the hungry, the poor, expectant mothers and people who are infertile.
St. Joseph, Patron Saint of Fathers, Workers, and a Holy and Happy Death
St. Joseph is well-known in Catholic Tradition for his status as the husband of the Virgin Mary and earthly father to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. St. Joseph displayed exceptional dedication, love, humility and trust in God in both of these relationships, from the moment God commanded him to take Mary as his wife to his fostering and raising of Jesus during his formative years.
In Matthew 13:55, we see Jesus referred to as “the carpenter’s son” upon returning to his hometown. And although many of Jesus’ relatives are listed in this passage, Joseph goes unmentioned. This silence leads many to believe that Joseph died before Jesus began his public ministry. Joseph would have died surrounded by Jesus Christ and Mary, the holiest and happiest death indeed.
St. Joseph’s title as “the carpenter” also reveals a great deal about who he was during his life. He was a hard worker, using his hands to fashion wood for his clients. He would have put in work and effort to provide for Mary and Jesus. For this reason, St. Joseph is also revered as the patron saint of fathers and workers. These individuals can look to St. Joseph for inspiration to trust God and honor Him through manual labor.
St. Mary the Virgin, the Mother of Jesus
Perhaps the most famous Catholic saint, Mary was blessed by God to carry and give birth to His Son, Jesus Christ. She is the only human, besides Jesus, to ever be born without Original Sin, and she remained blameless her entire life. It was through St. Mary’s faithful obedience that God’s Son was able to enter the world and change the course of history forever.
In Luke 1:28, the angel Gabriel refers to Mary as “favored one” and tells her that the Lord is with her. What a blessing it must have been to be Mary at that moment, learning of the incredible duty God had chosen her to fulfill. Together, she and Jesus would have experienced many moments in life and shared the joy of being mother and son.
When Jesus is dying on the cross in John 19:26-27, he reveals his love for his mother Mary. Jesus tells the disciple whom he loved, St. John, to take care of his mother after his death. The Bible says John cared for Mary in his own home from that day forward. Today, Catholics continue to give Mary the highest honor and seek her blessings in many moments of life.
St. Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of Animals
Born Giovanni in the 12th century, St. Francis of Assisi was a wealthy young man on his way to fight in a war when God came to him in a vision. After that moment, he devoted his life to teaching and preaching about God while leading a life of poverty. He spearheaded a revival in the Catholic faith that gave birth to three new Catholic religious orders:
- The Third Order of Saint Francis
- The women’s Order of St. Clare
- The Order of Friars Minor
One of St. Francis’s most well-known attributes is his love for animals. In fact, most artistic depictions of him include birds and mammals. Catholics invoke St. Francis of Assisi’s intercession for blessings toward animals and the environment, and for protection against fires.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Patron Saint of Educators, Students and Learning
St. Thomas Aquinas is one of the most intellectually gifted individuals in this list of saints and their virtues. History remembers him for his intricate, beautiful writings, as well as his exemplary virtuous life that Catholics around the world seek to emulate and learn from. St. Thomas was born into a wealthy family in Italy, but he chose to live a life of chastity, obedience and poverty instead. He felt God was calling him to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
St. Thomas was a Dominican friar who taught Catholic truths to people of all walks of life. Later, he was declared a Doctor of the Church, a title given to him for his many writings that continue to enrich and challenge theologians and philosophers alike to this day. St. Thomas of Aquinas serves as a model and inspiration for people who find joy in lifelong learning, as well as those who are involved in formal education.
St. Peter, Patron Saint of Popes and Rome
Known originally as Simon, St. Peter was one of Jesus’ 12 disciples during his public ministry and is one of the most important Catholic saints. We see Jesus calling Peter to follow him in Matthew 4:18-20. Peter and his brother Andrew were the first disciples Jesus called, and this saint would prove to be one of the most influential of the 12 during and after Christ’s time on earth.
Peter was a common fisherman for most of his life until Jesus called him to be a disciple. He couldn’t have ever guessed how drastically his life would change as a result of saying yes to Jesus’ calling. He followed Our Lord throughout his ministry on earth, witnessing his incredible signs, miracles and wonders. But most importantly, he heard Jesus’ teachings firsthand and would lead the Church after Christ’s Ascension into Heaven.
The Bible describes how Jesus set Peter apart from the other disciples in Matthew 16:17-18. Catholic Tradition emphasizes this moment as Jesus establishing Peter as the first pope of the Catholic Church. Peter would go on to write two influential epistles in the Bible, 1 and 2 Peter. St. Peter is also the patron saint of net makers, shipbuilders and fishermen due to his status as a fisherman before following Jesus.
St. Joan of Arc, Patron Saint of France
With one of the most recognizable saint names on this list, St. Joan of Arc was a French teenager who was instrumental in several of her country’s victories during the Hundred Years’ War. Her journey began when she received visions from St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Margaret and St. Michael the Archangel. After receiving these visions, she approached King Charles VII with the idea of her leading the French Army into battle with the English.
Despite proving her loyalty to her country and her faith in God on the battlefield, her visions and boldness were controversial. People began believing that she was a witch or sorceress, and she was put on trial by a pro-English tribunal of clerics. They sentenced her to be burned at the stake.
Despite being tempted to renounce her faith to spare her life, St. Joan of Arc remained steadfast. She faced martyrdom as valiantly as she had faced the battlefield for her country and died at only 19 years old.
Send Your Prayer Intentions to the Catholic World Mission
The many Catholic saints and their meanings provide a source of help and encouragement to Catholics around the world. Catholics offer up prayers to the patron saints in this list with the hope that they will intercede on their behalf. We at Catholic World Mission also want to pray for your needs, big and small. We invite you to send your prayer intentions to us so that we can offer them to God on your behalf.
If you’d like to get involved with making a difference in people’s lives around the world, you can donate to our mission today. Our goal is to help underprivileged communities experience lasting physical and spiritual renewal. Contact us today for more information.
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Deacon Rick Medina is the Executive Director of Catholic World Mission and oversees the management of all of Catholic World Mission's projects in over 35 countries. He was ordained a deacon of the archdiocese of Atlanta in 2013. He currently serves at All Saints Catholic Church in Dunwoody, Georgia, and is active in several ministries, including RCIA, baptism preparation, Life Teen, Altar Server group, Grief Share, and Adult Faith Formation.