At first glance, St. Erasmus of Formia is an unlikely patron saint of women in labour. He was an Italian bishop and an early Christian martyr. He may not have gone through childbirth himself, but he suffered a similar pain, which makes him able to empathize and intercede for women in labour.
St. Erasmus’ Story
Like most early Christian saints, little is known about St. Erasmus (also known as St. Elmo). As one biographer states, “The pious historians of the early Christian times state, as a rule, only what the Saints did and suffered for the Faith, and how they died. They deemed the Martyrs’ glorious combat and their victorious entrance into Heaven more instructive, and therefore more important, than a lengthy description of their lives.”
Erasmus was a bishop of the Catholic Church, likely in Formia or Antioch. He lived during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian, who is now well-known for his violent hatred of the Christians and his persistent persecution of them. St. Erasmus was able to escape these persecutions for a time by hiding out in a cave on Mount Lebanon.
After seven years of living as a hermit, Erasmus was either discovered by Roman soldiers or attempted to return to his home on his own. He was then sentenced to be tortured. The legends surrounding these tortures are suitably gruesome and holy; many miracles accompanied his tortures, preserving him from harm. Throughout all the cruel pain, he refused to renounce his faith in God.
Patron Saint of Women in Labour
One torture said to have been inflicted upon him was having hot hooks embedded in his stomach. He is usually pictured with a hook or with his intestines being pulled out. Because he endured these agonizing abdominal pains, he’s often asked to intercede for women in childbirth, as well as people with intestinal ailments and stomach pain, including children with colic.
Holy martyr Erasmus, who didst willingly and bravely bear the trials and sufferings of life, and by thy charity didst console many fellow-sufferers; I implore thee to remember me in my needs and to intercede for me with God. Staunch confessor of the Faith, victorious vanquisher of all tortures, pray Jesus for me and ask Him to grant me the grace to live and die in the Faith through which thou didst obtain the crown of glory. Amen. ~ Novena in honour of St. Erasmus, EWTN
St. Erasmus endured his pain because of his love for God. He can inspire us as women to endure our pain for the love of the baby we’re bringing into the world. His sufferings brought about the conversion of many around him and still gives glory to God today. Our sufferings bring the joy of new life, a new little person to raise to love and give glory God.
St. Erasmus died around the year 303. His feast day is celebrated on June 2.
Have you invoked the intercession of this patron saint of women in labour?