As a parent, there is nothing harder than seeing our children face illness and suffering, even if it’s just the common cold or flu. I’d rather go through the hacking cough or violent puking myself than try to comfort my child dealing with the strange things their body is facing. During times like these, I find myself turning to my friends the saints, for my own comfort and my child’s. While there are times when I can do nothing more than kiss a big owie or fetch a cup of cold water, I know that the saints in heaven can intercede for us here on earth. Here’s a list of my favourite patron saints of sick kids.
I first compiled this list of saints when my niece was hospitalized for meningitis. Since then, I’ve turned again and again to these friends for intercession and comfort as other friends tell me about illnesses and injuries their own kids are facing. On dark nights, as I’ve knelt by the bedside of a child coughing or puking, I’ve whispered these names, when I have no words or actions left to do myself.
The lives of these saints range from early legends to modern saints; simple children to trained physicians. No matter what your child’s physical or mental illness is, there’s a saint who has experience that and can pray with heartfelt words for him or her. May these patron saints of sick kids encourage and inspire you as you pray for your child.
What we know about St. Philomena comes from a tomb and a vision received by a nun. She was a Greek princess whose father converted to Christianity. At age 13, Philomena made a vow of perpetual virginity. However, when she traveled with her father to Rome, the Emperor Diocletian fell in love with her. Enraged by her refusal to marry him, he subjected her to tortures. She was scourged, drowned, and shot. Each time, angels flew to her side and healed her. Finally, the Emperor decapitated her. She died at 3 pm on a Friday afternoon, just like Jesus had.
Devotion to St. Philomena spread after her bones were exhumed in 1802. Miracles began to happen because of her intercession; cancers were cured and wounds were healed.
St. Philomena is the patron saint of infants, babies, and youth. Her feast day is August 11.
A website dedicated to St. Philomena has more of her story as well as prayers for intercession by St. Philomena, including a rosary, litany and novena. She is described as “the solace of the suffering and sick [and] consoler of afflicted mothers who invoke her for material or spiritual help for their children.”
A young martyr whose story is shrouded in legend like St. Philomena’s, St. Vitus was the son of a pagan senator. He converted to Christianity through the example of his tutor and his nurse. His father objected to this and had all three arrested. They escaped and fled to Rome, where Vitus healed the Emperor Diocletian’s son of an evil spirit. Attributing this cure to sorcery, the Emperor had him thrown in prison again. Various attempts to kill him failed; finally, he was thrown into boiling oil and died.
St. Vitus is the patron saint against epilepsy, snake bites and wild beasts. His feast day is June 15.
St. Agrippina of Mineo
St. Agrippina was a blonde princess born to a Roman family. Like St. Philomena, she was a consecrated virgin who refused marriage to a pagan. She was martyred by the Emperor Valerian. Her remains were taken by three holy women to Mineo, Italy, where her tomb became a popular pilgrimage destination.
She is the patron saint against leprosy and bacterial diseases and infections. Her feast day is June 23.
In 1400, a terrible plague ravaged the city of Siena. The hospital was overcrowded, as many of those needed to help care for the sick were falling sick themselves. St. Bernardine was only 20 when he arrived at the hospital with a handful of companions. They weren’t sick; they were there to help. Throughout the plague, Bernardine and his friends worked tirelessly to care for the victims of the plague while also cleaning and organizing the hospital. At the end of the plague, Bernardine fell ill from exhaustion.
When he recovered, he spent over a year caring for an invalid aunt. When she died, he threw himself into prayer and fastcing to discern what God wanted him to do next. In 1404, he was ordained a Franciscan priest. Due to a weak, hoarse voice, he couldn’t preach as the Franciscans usually did, so he remained in the background for the next twelve years. Then, on a mission to Milan, his voice was restored to him, whole and powerful. He spent the rest of his life crossing Italy on foot, preaching and teaching like a second St. Paul.
St. Bernardine is the patron saint against chest problems. His feast day is May 20.
St. Pio dedicated himself to God at the age of five. From an early age, he could see and talk with his guardian angel as well as Jesus and Mary. His mother said he was a quiet boy who liked to go to church and pray. When he was fifteen, he joined the novitiate of the Capuchin Order of the Friars Minor in Morcone, Italy. His fellow students and teachers admired him for his exemplary behavior and deep piety. He was ordained a priest at the age of 23 and the Mass played a vital part in his spiritual life. Parishioners began to flock to him for advice, and even a few moments with him often caused deep changes in their lives.
“It seems to me as if Jesus has no other concern but the sanctification of your soul.” ~ St. Padre Pio
He suffered from poor health for his entire life. His illnesses remained a mystery to his doctors, but he offered them to God as a sacrifice for the conversion of sinners. He received the marks of the stigmata at age 31, becoming the first priest in Church history to do so. He bore the painful wounds in his hands, feet and side for the next 50 years. He also received many gifts and charisms, including the gifts of healing and miracles and the ability to abstain beyond man’s natural powers from both sleep and nourishment. He established prayer groups, which have spread around the world, and founded a hospital called The Home for the Relief of Suffering.
“Bring God to all those who are sick. This will help them more than any other remedy.” ~ St. Padre Pio
St. Padre Pio is the patron saint of adolescents, stress relief, and January blues. His feast day is September 23.
St. Dymphna was the daughter of a pagan king and a Christian mother. She grew up in Ireland and consecrated herself to Jesus when she was 14. Soon after, however, her mother died. Her father’s extreme grief and mental struggles after his wife’s loss caused his counselors to recommend that he remarry. He agreed to marry a woman just as beautiful as his deceased wife, but none could be found in all the land. The devious counselors then suggested that he marry his own daughter, and in his unstable mental state, the king agreed.
Hearing of this, Dymphna fled from the castle with her confessor (St. Gereberus), two servants, and the king’s fool. The group reached Belgium, where they settled down. Dymphna soon used her wealth to build a hospital for the sick and poor of her community. However, news of this spread to her father in Ireland. He traveled to Belgium to capture them. After ordering the death of her confessor, he demanded that Dymphna marry him. When she refused, he beheaded her.
Dymphna became known as the Lyly of Eire. A church was built in her honour in 1349. So many people with mental illnesses came to the church that it had to be expanded. The townspeople even took in the pilgrims who came seeking healing. When the original church burned down, a grander new church was built in 1532. Many miracles have been attributed to her intercession.
St. Dymphna is the patron saint of those suffering nervous and mental afflictions. Her feast day is May 15.
Good Saint Dymphna, great wonder-worker in every affliction of mind and body, I humbly implore your powerful intercession with Jesus through Mary, the Health of the Sick, in my present need. (Mention it.) Saint Dymphna, martyr of purity, patroness of those who suffer with nervous and mental afflictions, beloved child of Jesus and Mary, pray to Them for me and obtain my request. (Pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be.) Saint Dymphna, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us.
St. Gianna Beretta Molla
Gianna Beretta was the second youngest daughter of devout Italian parents. Five of her twelve siblings died in infancy, but the others all achieved prestigious professional qualifications. Gianna struggled at school and was even kept home for one year because of poor health. She lived through World War II in Italy and was involved in her local Catholic Action. She graduated in 1949 with a degree in medicine, then earned a speciality in pediatrics. Five years later, she met and fell in love with Pietro Molla.
Gianna continued her medical practice after her marriage, while Pietro worked at a factory. They had three children and then suffered several miscarriages. Gianna found pregnancy and labour difficult, but endured both cheerfully. Late in her last pregnancy, a tumor was discovered on Gianna’s uterus. Her doctors advised her to have an abortion, but Gianna declined. Surgery to remove her tumor was successful. Gianna carried her daughter to term and gave birth in the local hospital. However, after her daughter’s birth, Gianna caught an infection and died.
St. Gianna Beretta Molla is the patron saint of mothers and physicians. Her feast day is April 28.
St. Luke is the writer of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. He’s also the beloved physician mentioned by St. Paul. He was likely born a Greek and a Gentile (and his Gospel includes the only mentions of the Good Samaritan, the grateful leper, and other godly Gentiles). Luke traveled frequently with St. Paul (as we can see from his use of “we” in Acts). When St. Paul was imprisoned in Rome, Luke remains there with him until Paul’s death.
St. Luke is the patron of surgeons and physicians. His feast day is October 18.
Who are your favourite patron saints for sick kids?