Do you have a patron saint? Does your family? Does it even matter?
As a child and young adult, I didn’t fully appreciate the idea of having a patron saint. Sure, St. Veronica is my Confirmation saint, and I love the idea of her courageous, loving act to comfort Jesus…but I honestly never related well to her. Because of that, and my general lack of knowledge about who we call saints, I used to think of the saints not as friends, but as people who lived before me and were so good at the Christian life that they earned the distinction of sainthood. People to admire, but I was admiring them from a distance.
That impersonal admiration started to change when Pope John Paul II died, and later when he was beatified and canonized. He was a man I deeply admired, and had personal experiences and cherished memories of him. Our family was given a special Papal blessing from him (the framed certificate to commemorate that is always the first thing we hang when we move). His life–great hope and joy, enjoyment of the outdoors, appreciation for families–inspires us and we feel like we can relate to him. My kids loved hearing that St. John Paul II loved to ski, and would sneak away on occasion to enjoy the mountains.
As St. John Paul II’s canonization was nearing, we often sought his intercession. For safety while skiing, for our family to grow in faith, for all our prayers, we asked him to watch over us and pray with us. Soon, we were daily asking St. John Paul II to pray for us. Now we consider him a patron for our family.
Through the years of teaching my children about our faith at home, they have also started to adopt patron saints for themselves. My son has a special connection with St. Gabriel (his namesake), my daughter admires St. Therese the Little Flower and calls her a patron. Two of our other children don’t yet have a strong devotion or friendship with a saint, but as we learn more and more about saints, they seem drawn towards a few in particular. My oldest daughter likes St. Katherine Drexel, because of her time spent in New Mexico, where my daughter was born. My younger son likes St. Martin, because he was a soldier (what can I say, 3 and 4 year olds are drawn towards things like that). In any case, simple things have drawn my children to particular saints, and it really is as simple as that to find a patron.
As simple as a child’s interest in soldiers, you wonder? Sure, and why not? We are supposed to have child-like faith! And aren’t our friends often people we share something in common with? The saints are heavenly friends!
You don’t have to have a patron saint. It is not a “Catholic requirement”. You also don’t have to be Catholic to admire a saint and ask their intercession. But, I have found that finding friends in the saints, asking their prayers, and following their example helps me do better in my walk with Christ. Having the saints back me up in prayer and inspire me with their words and life helps me choose how to better love those around me, most important my family. I’ll be first to admit that I can be a “fair-weathered” friend (or bad-weathered? I seek out certain saints only when I’m feeling especially needy…), and I go through seasons of not giving much thought to the saints…and yet…
I highly recommend having a patron saint or two. Or twelve even, if you want. Think about a need you have, a struggle you have, and find a saint who can relate. Maybe start with a saint who shares your name, or birthday. Ask their prayers, and there you go. You’re on your way to a new friendship. The saints have been through this journey before. Though their walk may have been a bit (or wildly) different from our own, they struggled with sin, struggled to follow their vocation, but kept trying and finally “finished the race” as St. Paul would say. They are just waiting for us to seek them out and ask them to pray for us, just as we would ask a trusted friend. And that is what a patron saint is all about: support and heavenly friendship. They are the best sort of friend, praying for us and encouraging us on our walk with Christ.