Today, the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints, often referred to as All Saints' Day or All Hallows (hence October 31 is Halloween, a contraction of All Hallows' Evening). In honor of the day, we present to you some of the lesser-known (and more modern) patronages of the saints.
There's a great story about St. Genesius, the patron saint of actors, that tells of how he had an epiphany while performing in a play satirizing Christian sacrament and converted to Christianity on the spot, right in the middle of the play. Emperor Diocletian, for whom the play was being performed, was enraged and, when Genesius refused to change his mind, had the performer tortured and beheaded. Sadly, this story is just that—a story—that originated three centuries after Genesius' death. Genesius was actually a legal clerk who became so upset about the edict of persecution for Christians that he left his position and went in search of baptism. He was beheaded, around 303 CE, but there's no evidence to suggest the conversion-during-a-play story is accurate. Nevertheless, St. Genesius remains the go-to patron for actors.
St. Vitus has a slightly more legitimate reason to be patron saint of performers, but it's still a bit contrived. Also martyred circa 303 CE during the persecution of Christians under the co-ruling Roman Emperors Diocletian and Maximian, Vitus is one of the "Fourteen Holy Helpers," a group of saints venerated together because their intercession is considered especially effective. Vitus' feast day, June 15th, was celebrated in the late Middle Ages with dancing in front of a statue of the saint (see the image at left). He thus was adopted as the saint of dancers, and of performers in general. He's also the patron saint of those suffering from epilepsy and Sydenham's chorea, a.k.a. Saint Vitus Dance, "a disease characterized by rapid, uncoordinated jerking movements."
Advertising, Television, & Broadcasting
Bernardine of Siena, who was a Franciscan priest, is considered the patron saint of advertisers, an honor that stems from his passionate and highly persuasive preaching. When he first became a Franciscan (an order known as missionary preachers), Bernardine focused on prayer and didn't praech much due to a weak, hoarse voice. After 12 years, he journeyed to Milan on a mission, where he preached with a voice so "strong and commanding" and "words so convincing that the crowd would not let him leave unless he promised to come back." From then on, he spent almost all of his time preaching, and even turned down several offers to be bishop. In 1444, he realized his death was imminent, and preached for 50 consecutive days until his death.
The funny thing about St. Bernardine being the patron saint of advertising is that he was noted for his dislike of indecent talk, something that features heavily in much of modern advertising. Once when he was a boy, an adult for some reason thought it would funny to stop Bernardine in the town square and publicly embarrass him with indecent talk, but the tables were turned when young Bernardine slapped the man across the face, humiliating him.
Radio broadcasters (and "communication workers" in general) can look to Gabriel the Archangel as their patron saint. Gabriel is, of course, the angel who appeared to Mary to announce her pregnancy with the Son of God. He's also the angel who announced to Daniel the "seventy times seven" prophecy and the angel who foretold the birth of St. John the Baptist to Zachariah.
And for those working in television, there's St. Clare of Assisi. Clare was inspired to imitate Francis of Assisi after hearing him preach, and she ran away from home to "live a poor humble life for Jesus," eventually founding an order of nuns known as the "Poor Clares." Near the end of her life, Clare became too sick to attend daily mass. Sick in her bed on Christmas Eve, she saw visions of the chapel mass on the wall of her cell, complete with organ music and singing. Considering this miracle to be the first live broadcast, Pope Pius XII declared St. Clare the patron saint of television in 1958. Bonus fact: It was a Poor Clare nun, Mother Angelica, who founded EWTN (Eternal World Television Network), which broadcasts Catholic-themed programs including daily mass.
Beer, Brewers, & Alcoholics
Beer has just one patron saint, an Austrian bishop who was known for extolling the benefits of drinking beer. St. Arnold was born into a prominent Austrian family in 580 CE. In that time, water wasn't actually very safe to drink, as it was often filled with contaminants that could make people sick. Beer's preparation, however, kills off any harmful bacteria, making it positively healthy in comparison. Arnold spoke often on the topic of beer, especially its health benefits. He's credited with the statement, "From man's sweat and God's love, beer came into the world."
About a year after Arnold's death and burial at his monastery in Remiremont, France, his body was relocated to the local church in Metz, France, where he had frequently preached. According to legend, the procession that transported his body stopped at a tavern for refreshment on the way, but there was only one mug of beer left, so they all split it... and the mug never ran dry, quenching the crowd's thirst.
Today, there's a brewery in Houston named for the patron saint of beer: Saint Arnold Brewing Company.
Brewers have a whole assortment of patron saints to call their own: Augustine of Hippo, Luke, Nicholas of Myra, Amand, and Wenceslaus. Yet the explanations for these patrons are lacking. The only one given an explanation is St. Augustine of Hippo, and it's shaky at best. According to Catholic.org: "St. Augustine of Hippo is the patron of brewers because of his conversion from a former life of loose living, which included parties, entertainment, and worldly ambitions. His complete turnaround and conversion has been an inspiration to many who struggle with a particular vice or habit they long to break."
His early bad boy lifestyle may have been a classic case of rebellion—his mother was the super holy St. Monica, who managed to convert her husband and his mother to Christianity. She prayed for Augustine through 17 years of his "loose living" and was consoled by a priest who told her, "It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish." Eventually, her prayers and preaching won out, and Augustine cast aside "all impurity" and began living "in imitation of Jesus."
Speaking of St. Monica, she's known as the patron saint of alcoholics (and those affected by them). In addition to her challenges with her son Augustine, her husband was an abusive alcoholic pagan whom she had married through arrangement at a young age. Despite their differences and his bad temper, Monica was able to not only "nag him to sobriety," as one site put it, but to convert him to her faith. She's also the patron saint of wives and victims of abuse, as you may have been able to guess.
Illegitimate Kids, the Divorced, & Single Moms
There isn't much information available as to why St. John Francis Regis is regarded as the patron saint of illegitimate children, but it's most likely related to his work with "wayward women and girls." John was ordained in 1630 and embarked on a life of assisting others, including helping wayward women and girls "withdr[a]w from vice," establishing hostels for prostitutes, and providing girls with incomes by setting them up as lacemakers (which is why he's also the patron saint of lacemakers).
Those who have been divorced, especially women, can look to Helena of Constantinople, mother of Constantine the Great, as their patron saint. St. Helena (also known as St. Helen) is most often associated with the True Cross, since she is credited with finding the relics of the cross on which Jesus was crucified. However, her personal life suits her to patronage of divorcées. It's unknown exactly when and how she met Emperor Constantius, but it is said that when they met he saw her as "his soulmate sent by God." Sources are also unsure as to the exact nature of their relationship: some say it was a legal marriage, others a common-law marriage; some say she was his wife, others his concubine. Whatever the specifics, the two were in a relationship that produced an heir, Constantine, around the year 272 CE. They remained together for at least 15 years, but in 289 CE Constantius, who was Roman Emperor Caesar, divorced Helena to enter into a politically advantageous marriage with a younger woman, Theodora, who was the stepdaugher of Maximian, Roman Emperor Augustus at the time.
As for single moms, they have St. Margaret of Cortona, who became the mistress of a nobleman when she was a teenager. Margaret remained with the nobleman for ten years and even bore him a son, despite his refusal to marry her as she desired. She left only after his murder (don't worry, she wasn't the one who killed him) and returned home to her father's house with her son, but her stepmother refused to let her stay. She took refuge with the Church of Saint Francis in Cortona, eventually joining the Third Order of St. Francis (although her past led to resistance by some members of the order).
The Ugly & Those Suffering Discrimination
Drogo of Sebourg, who was born into Flemish nobility, held himself responsible for his mother's death in childbirth and practiced extreme penance, ridding himself of all possessions at age 18 to become a penitential pilgrim. During one pilgrimage, he suffered an "unsightly bodily affliction." The term "unsightly" is actually a bit too mild to properly convey Drogo's condition: he became so deformed that townspeople were scared of his appearance, and they even built a cell (attached to a church, since he was so religious) for him to stay in, to "protect the local citizens of the village from his appearance." Yeah, he was that ugly. For the remaining 40 years of his life, the only human contact he had was via a small window in the door of his cell, through which he received his sustenance—barley, water, and the Eucharist. So if you feel that you're ugly or deformed, send up a prayer through St. Drogo... or just remind yourself he had it a lot worse.
There's also St. Germaine, who supposedly was abandoned by her parents as a young child due to her unattractiveness. She spent her life isolated from society; as a shepherdess, she slept in fields and under stairways and had limited human interaction.
Desperate Situations and Impossible Cases
People who feel they're facing desperate situations can comfort themselves with the knowledge that they have several patron saints to whom they can turn: Jude, Gregory the Wonderworker, and Eustace. Really, the majority of the officially recognized saints suffered through "desperate situations," so almost any of them are worth a shot. St. Jude is probably the most well-known for desperate situations (and lost causes). His reputation as patron of the desperate is due to his New Testament letter, which "stresses that the faithful should persevere in the environment of harsh, difficult circumstances, just as their forefathers had done before them," according to Catholic.org.
If your situation is truly impossible, though, you have only one person to turn to: Rita of Cascia. From childhood, Rita (also known as Margarita) yearned to be a nun, but her parents forced her into marriage at age 12 to "a rich, quick-tempered, immoral man, who had many enemies in the region." She endured his "insults, abuse, and infidelities" and persevered in converting "her cruel husband from his wicked ways, making their home a peaceful sanctuary of holy bliss." They went on to have two children together. Despite her husband's change of heart, his past led to his downfall; he was stabbed to death, betrayed by his allies. As her sons grew older, they plotted revenge for their father's murder and wouldn't listen to reason from Rita. So Rita turned to prayer instead, and her sons died non-violent deaths before they were able to enact any revenge.
Now that we've run down some of the quirkier patron saints, we're curious to know about your favorites. Who's your favorite patron saint? Or what do you wish there was a patron saint for?