I love this time of year. Despite the gray days and cold weather, the first few months of each year always have me a little giddy with quiet expectation. It may be weird to say, but it is entirely because I know something good is coming. At some point during these months, someone that I know and love—even if it’s a long-lost friend I only keep in contact with through social media—will announce the news that they’re expecting a baby. I never know who it will be mind you (that’s the surprise), but I am certain the announcements will come. Yearly birthing trends have told me so. From year to year, September is consistently the month with the highest number of births, followed closely by August and July. I hypothesize that the combination of the cold weather and the excitement of the holidays have a lot to do with this occurrence.
Keeping this in mind, I know there are currently many in their first trimester of pregnancy. It’s a joyful, but also vulnerable time! A litany of Saints who were also mothers might be exactly the support these expectant mothers need.
Litany of Saints for Expectant Mothers
There are many holy men who are associated with pregnancy and childbirth within our Catholic Faith. Saint Gerard is often referred to as “the mothers’ saint,” Saint Raymond Nonnatus is sometimes called upon by those undergoing emergency caesarian sections, and Saint Erasmus apparently experienced abdominal pain similar to labor. All of these men are certainly worthy intercessors to call upon. However, I decided not to include them in this litany simply because sometimes you just want the empathy and support of someone who has gone through the same experience as you. No offense to these manly Saints, but none of them actually went through the process of giving birth. However, these saintly ladies below know exactly what it is like to become a mother and raise children. Thus, I am sure they would be willing to fly to the side of any spiritual sister in need.
Our Lady of Childbirth
A beloved sculpture of Our Lady holding an infant stands in the Basilica of Sant’Agostino in Rome. It is surrounded by and adorned with papers, cards, flowers and other gifts, all from parents who are seeking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin in regards to their unborn children. Due to this tradition, the sculpture has become known as Our Lady of Childbirth. Thus, expectant mothers have title of Mary to call upon as they enter into the delivery room!
Our Lady of Guadalupe
This teal and gold adorned Mother appeared to Juan Diego, not only dressed as an Aztec princess, but also as an expectant mother. The sash around her waist is an indication of an infant growing in her womb—an indication of the imminent “birth” of Jesus in the hearts of the Aztec descendants who quickly adhered themselves to the Catholic Faith because of this apparition. It is because of her pregnancy that Our Lady of Guadalupe is known as the patroness of the unborn.
Our Lady of the Milk and Happy Delivery
It was Spanish settlers in Florida who began a devotion to Our Lady of La Leche, an image of Mary nursing the infant Jesus. In the early 1600s, a shrine was erected in her honor in St. Augustine—the first Marian shrine in the United States! It remains a spot of pilgrimage for all people, but especially mothers looking for love from their heavenly Queen.
Saints Perpetua & Felicity
Residents of North Africa in the third century, Perpetua and Felicity were imprisoned and sentenced to die for their Christian Faith. Perpetua was a twenty-two year old Roman noblewoman with an infant son. Felicity, her servant, was eight months pregnant at the time and was thrilled to give birth before her execution and have her daughter adopted by another Christian family. It is clear from Perpetua’s autobiography that both women were loving and devoted mothers, but that love of Christ and devotion to Truth was truly at the center of their lives.
Saint Margaret of Clitherow
The wife of an English butcher and wealthy chamberlin, Margaret bore three children. Her life was incredibly normal, except for the fact that she converted to Catholicism shortly after it had been condemned and renounced by Henry VIII. She was an anchor for the Faith within her community, organizing Masses in her home, hiding priests, and encouraging other secret Catholics. She was arrested many times, even giving birth to one of her children in prison. On her final arrest charges, she pled guilty immediately in order to protect her children (who were also Catholic) from being tortured for information. She died on Good Friday, pregnant with her fourth child. Her two sons grew up to become priests and her daughter entered the convent.
Saint Anna Pak A-Gi
A Korean mother of five who herself admitted a lack of intellect. Anna declared that what she lacked in knowledge of Jesus, she would make up for in her loving actions for His glory. She raised her children virtuously and taught them about the love martyrs had for the Lord, even claiming to desire to join them one day. Eventually, she was arrested alongside her husband and eldest son. Both of them apostaized under torture and her children begged her to do the same. With tears in her eyes, she begged them to reconsider their apostasy. She was beheaded after years of grusome torture, but died a happy martyr.
Often referred to as “the mother of saints,” this fourth century woman had ten children, five of which grew up to be canonized Saints! Saints Macrina, Basil, Peter of Sebaste, Gregory of Nyssa, and Theosebia all clearly benefited from her zealous and virtuous instruction. When her children were grown and out of the house, she divided her property among them before founding a monastery for women. She died in the arms of her eldest daughter and youngest son after praying God would bestow on them a special blessing.
Saint Brigid of Kildare
Very little is known for certain about this patroness of Ireland, but for centuries she’s been claimed as the patron Saint of midwives and babies. Perhaps because she was born on the day of the pagan goddess Brid who was considered a goddess of fertility.
Saint Bridget of Sweden
A mystic during the Middle Ages, Saint Bridget married a swiss governor and bore eight children.When her children were grown and her husband died, she founded a new religious order. Her daughter Catherine (listed below) assisted in this process, joining the order as well and eventually becoming the abbess. What a unique experience to belong to the same religious order as your daughter!
Saint Catherine of Sweden
A celibate nun herself, Catherine became a source of spiritual counsel for many mothers in the 14th century who had experienced miscarriages or other complications in their pregnancies. Thus, she is the patron Saint of miscarraige and can be called upon for aid with a healthy pregnancy.
Saint Frances of Rome
A loving wife and mother of three, Frances gave lavishly from her family’s own possessions so much so that it sometimes angered her household. One particular occurrence happened during a famine when she completely emptied their storehouse of grain. Her husband objected in frustration, but upon entering the granary he found it full of wheat so immaculate, he remarked that it had to have been harvested by angels. A similar occurrence happened when Frances gave away the last of their wine from the cellar. Her father-in-law became angry, so Frances turned the spicket of an empty cask and wine miraculously poured forth. Upon tasting it, the patriarch was shocked to discover it was the best wine he had every tasted. Saint Frances knew that she could never be more generous than God.
Saint Rita of Cascia
A saintly wife and mother of two boys, accounts tell of how Rita’s virtue and countenance were a great comfort to her husband, especially because of his highly stressful job. Tragically, political unrest made her husband a target for some unhappy men who ambushed and killed him. Rita’s sons were teenagers at the time, and very hot-headed. She feared they would seek revenge and murder the men who killed their father. Rita prayed, and both boys ended up dying of natural causes before those sins could take place. Though mourning their presence on earth, she rejoiced in their (most likely) saved souls. She joined the order of Augustian nuns and lived out the reminder of her life with their order.
Saint Jane Frances de Chantal
Beautiful Jane was raised by her widowed father and married off to the son of his friend. Her husband Christopher was a French courtier and spent much of his time in service to the king. Jane dutifully looked after their home and raised their four children where she was known for her fairness and generosity. Tragically, her husband died in a hunting accident which left Jane struck with anxiety for much of her life. It was due to the help of Saint Francis deSales that she found healing and eventually started a religious order alongside him. However, she did not abandon her children. Before joining her order she ensured marriages and households for all her children where they were well looked after.
Saint Marie of the Incarnation
Marie’s holiness was apparent from a young age as she had her first mystical experience at the age of seven. Ten years later she was married to a French silk merchant and bore him a son before becoming a widow just two years into her marriage. When her son was grown, she joined the Ursuline sisters and was assigned to sail to Canada. There she helped to build their first convent in the country and also educated the Indigenous people (specifically the Iroquis and Algonquin).
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
The first American born person to become a canonized Saint within the Church, there are loads of reasons to admire this woman. She lived on Wall Street and was a prominent socialite. She was also a devout member of her Episcapol church and dedicated to her step-mother’s social ministry—nursing the sick and dying among family, friends, and needy neighbors. Elizabeth herself birthed five children before the death of her husband, which was caused by his lifelong tuberculosis worsening due to the stress of losing their business. Elizabeth’s entire world collapsed around her, but it was in this collapse that her late husband’s Italian business partners introduced her to Catholicism. Elizabeth soon converted. She is perhaps most famous for her founding of the first parochial school in the United States.
Saint Joaquina Vedruna de Mas
Attracted to religious life, Joaquina was saddened when she was rejected by the order she had wished to join. A couple of years later, she met her husband and discovered how much they had in common—including the fact that both of them had desired to join religious communities. They decided to marry and together had nine children that they raised in a loving home. During the French Revolution, when Napoleon invaded Spain, the Vedruna family moved to the countryside to try and avoid the harsh effects of war. Joaquina’s husband went to join the troops and defend their country, and she navigated keeping their family safe and healthy during the tumult. Her husband did return alive, but his health was frail and he died unexpectedly when she was thirty-three. Joaquina used her inheritance to set her children up for success, and after all her children were adults with families and professions, Joaquina founded a religious order that cared for the sick and educated children.
Blessed Concepcion Cabrera de Armida
A joyful spirit who grew up during the Mexican Civil War, she lived through the religious persecutions that accompanied the civil unrest. She was married for twenty-two years, a mother to nine children, and author of thousands of mystical meditations about the Spirituality of the Cross.
This list would not be complete without the biological grandmother of Jesus. Saint Ann had Mary in her old age and thus understands the difficulties of infertility as well as the joy of unexpected pregnancy. She’s a suited intercessor for motherhood, if not only for the reason that she passed on her faith and love for God so well that Mary chose faithfulness herself.
A patroness of infertility, Elizabeth was a cousin of Mary, possibly helped to raise her, and was also pregnant alongside her. Scripture tells us of Mary’s famous visit to see her impossibly pregnant cousin, and also that Mary stayed until John was born. Is it plausible that Mary was in the room when Elizabeth gave birth to this miraculously conceived child? Absolutely! Thus we can ask Saint Elizabeth to pray for a similar situation for each one of us!
Saint Helena of the True Cross
Helena was the mother of Constantine the Great, the emperor who legalized Christianity within the Roman empire and ended the official persecutions of the Early Church. A convert herself, Helena traveled to the Holy Land with the patronage and protection of her son. In her early sixties, this was no easy journey, as the city of Jerusalem and much of the surrounding areas had been destroyed in centuries past due to revolt. The region was unsafe, due to outside people as well as the structural shambles of destroyed buildings. Pagan temples had been erected over sites such as calvary and the tomb of Jesus, but Helena uncovered many relics and holy pieces — including the true cross of Jesus which elicited many miracles at its discovery.
The single Christian in her household, Monica’s husband, mother-in-law, and three children were all unsupportive of her Faith. In fact, sometimes they were even combative and insulting in regards to her belief. Monica bore it all with virtue, struggling greatly through it all. But in the end, her faithfulness and love inspired the conversions of her entire family, including her most famous son, Saint Augustine.
Saint Olga of Kiev
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Olga is venerated at the same level as the Apostles. This is because her grandson Vladimir brought Christianity to all of Russia. Why is this also attributed to her? It was through her fierce, motherly protection (which included burning and burying enemies alive) that she was able to protect the kingdom for her son after her husband was murdered by an enemy.
Though an Empress, Adelaide’s life was far from easy, in fact, it would make for an exciting screenplay! It included the death of her first husband, being locked in a tower for refusing to marry another, a swampy escape, and the marriage proposal of another faithful man at the other side. Adelaide was the mother of five children, two of whom went on to become nuns. But it was not all happily-ever-after, either. Not only was she widowed a second time, she also endured a tumultuous relationship with her daughter-in-law, which including her being sent away from court for a time. In another turn of events,the two women united at the death of her son and worked together to protect his young heir and prevent usurpation.
Saint Margaret of Scotland
Margaret was a princess of Wessex who escaped to Scotland after an invading king conquered her homeland. King Malcom of Scotland fell in love with Margaret as she was beautiful both inside and out. Together they had eight children, and Margaret’s grace and virtue transformed the Scottish court from a place of rowdiness and promiscuity to a place of civilized grace.
Saint Elizabeth of Hungary
A princess who got to marry the man she loved, Elizabeth birthed and raised three children. With the support of her husband the king, Elizabeth did not live a lavish or relaxed life. Instead she worked among the poor and sick in hospitals, peasant homes, and even the streets. The stories of her generosity and service are so great that Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI pinpointed her as the model for all people in leadership positions.
Saint Jadwiga of Poland
Poland’s first female monarch, Queen Jadwiga inherited the throne at the age of ten upon the death of her father. She broke off her engagement to a foreign friend she had grown up alongside in order to marry a Polish man who had much more interest in what was best for their country. Jadwiga was a prayerful woman and devoted queen who did much to restore the Catholic Faith in her homeland. She and her husband had one daughter.
Blessed Anna Maria Taigi
Blessed Anna Maria Taigi is honored as having been an exemplary wife and mother to seven, though in the earlier years of her marriage she had an adulterous affair due to the verbal and emotional abuse of her husband. Through prayer and outside help, they were able to heal their marriage. From that point on, Anna Maria grew monumentally in the Faith, to the point where she was frequently in ecstasy, worked miracles of healing, read hearts, foretold deaths, and saw visions on the coming of future events. She became an advisor to cardinals, world leaders, and even three popes.
Saint Zelie Martin
An accomplished artisan and business woman, Zelie was a “working mother” as she ran a highly sought after lace shop in Alecon, France. She and her husband had nine children together, tragically having to bury four of them at a young age. Her immense grief is present in letters she wrote to family, but through it all, she found comfort in the truth that she’d hold them again in eternity. Of her five surviving daughters, every single one went on to become a religious sister, the most famous being Saint Therese of Lisieux.
This popular and modern-day Saint is often looked to for by Catholic mothers for her intercession against pregnancy complications. This is because Saint Gianna faced birth complications herself during her fourth pregnancy. She chose the treatment option which put her own health at risk, but gave her child the best chance of survival. Gianna delivered a healthy baby girl, and passed away days later due to septic peritonitis. When she was canonized in 2004, her husband and all four children were present at the Mass.
Blessed Chiara Corbella Petrillo
Chiara lived a simple life of extraordinary holiness. Married in 2008 to her husband Enrico after an unlikely meeting while on pilgrimage, the couple conceived their first child quickly. When it was discovered the child was not growing properly, the doctors advised abortion. Chiara and Enrico refused. Chiara carried her daughter to term, and spent thirty minutes with the child before she passed away newly baptized. The second pregnancy was tragically similar, and their son died thirty minutes after he was born. During her third pregnancy, it was discovered that, this time, it was Chiara who was sick. By the time she gave birth to their healthy baby boy, the cancer had progressed too far. Chiara lived for another year, dying in 2012, describing her cross as “very sweet.”
Community, Not Competition
Though all these women were mothers, it was not motherhood alone that defined or sanctified them. They are all remembered and esteemed for the unique and individual ways they assisted in building the Kingdom of God.
When reading through a list of such holy and courageous women, it can be easy to begin comparing ourselves to them and find ourselves falling short. However, there is not a Saint in Heaven who wants us to be doing such a thing. These women are certainly not judging us or comparing on any level. They are rooting for us whole-heartedly, wanting us to thrive in this life! So call on them for encouragement and help. Print off this litany. Keep it close (you can download it here) and pray it often.
Is there anyone you think should be added to this litany?