We are big fans of our guardian angels in my house. My kids ask their angels for help when they are faced with a big test at school or if they wake up in the night from a bad dream. Before I go to bed, I pray over their four sleeping bodies and ask their angels to watch over them. They had guardian angel medals hanging in their nurseries as babies and I have one pinned to the sun visor in my minivan to protect us as we go.
The Saints, though? That’s something our family could do a little more learning about. There are certain saints that I am intimately familiar with. Saint Cecilia has helped me on more than one occasion when I didn’t feel my voice could carry me through a performance. Saint Anne and our Blessed Mother have prayed me through many a worrisome mothering moment. And there were numerous times as a fledgling teacher that I implored Saint Mother Theodore Guerin for help.
At the beginning of this new school year, maybe it would be helpful to take a cue from my 4th grader and use a study guide to learn something new. Who are the men and women that our Church, in her wisdom, has put forward as experts in their fields? To whom should we turn for help with our school-related issues this year and in the future?
Grab your index cards and highlighters, sisters, and feel free to take notes. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but more the Cliffs Notes version. Not to worry, though. There won’t be a test.
The Main Idea
Patron Saint of Teachers
Saint John Baptist de la Salle was a Frenchman from the 17th century who was a pioneer in teacher training. He formed the Brothers of the Christian Schools religious community and was a leader in educational reform in France. Some of the changes he instituted were providing educational opportunities for the poor, teaching children in the vernacular instead of in Latin, and involving parents in their children’s education. His feast day is April 7.
Patron Saint of Schools
Saint Thomas Aquinas is a patron of schools, Catholic schools, and colleges/universities. He was a 13th century Dominican teacher, professor, and founder of schools who was declared a doctor of the Church by Pope Pius V. He taught in France and in Italy and wrote several prayers for students. His feast day is January 28.
Patron Saints of Students
Saint Catherine of Alexandria lived in the 3rd and 4th centuries and, when she was a teenager, came before Emperor Maxentius who was persecuting Christians. Because of her great intellect, she was faced not with physical hardships but with fifty orators and philosophers to debate her. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, she spoke so eloquently that she won her debate and even converted several pagans.
Saint Joseph Cupertino was a 17th century man who struggled academically and finally passed his exams to became a priest at the age of 25 after failing multiple times. (He was also known to levitate, which most kids think is pretty cool).
Saint Catherine’s feast day is November 25 and Saint Joseph’s feast day is September 18.
The patron saints of catechists are Saint Charles Borromeo and Saint Robert Bellarmine (both active in the life of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga). And the patron saint of school principals is Saint Thomas Aquinas. He’s actually the patron saint of a lot of things related to education!
Patron Saint of Young Boys
Saint Dominic Savio was an Italian boy from the 19th century. He was a student of the great Saint John Bosco. He was a regular boy who sometimes got into trouble and loved to laugh. From Don Bosco, Saint Dominic learned the holiness of ordinary things. He died at the age of 15 and his feast day is May 6.
Patron Saint of Young Girls
Saint Agnes of Rome was an innocent girl of 12 or 13 when she was martyred for refusing to deny her faith and marry the governor of her home. She declared that she was already promised to the Lord and is said to have looked as happy as a bride on her wedding day when she was going to be executed because she knew that in death she would be united with Jesus. She is usually portrayed with a lamb to signify her purity. Her feast day is January 21.
Patron Saint of Teenage Boys
Saint Aloysius Gonzaga was born into a family of Italian nobility in the 16th century. He renounced his life of wealth and privilege, made a vow of chastity at age 9, and eventually became a Jesuit. He was studious and counselled many of his friends. He died during an outbreak of the plague after caring for the sick. His feast day is June 21.
Patron Saint of Teenage Girls
Saint Maria Goretti was an Italian peasant who died in 1902 at the age of 12 after being brutally attacked and raped. She may not have had a good education, but she had an abundance of faith. She fought her attacker and yelled that God did not wish for what was happening, that it was a sin. Years later, her attacker saw a vision of Maria offering him flowers in a dream and he sought the forgiveness of her family. Her feast day is July 6.
After all that talk about young children and teenagers, maybe it would be good to mention that the patron saint of parenthood is Saint Rita of Cascia. In addition to our Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, of course!
Outside of the Classroom
Patron Saint of Athletes
Saint Sebastian was born in Gaul and then lived in Rome during the 3rd century. He was a member of the Roman army, eventually becoming a captain under Diocletian. When it was discovered that he was a Christian who had converted many soldiers, he was put to death. He is also the patron saint of archers and his feast day is January 20.
Patron Saint of Bus Drivers
Yep! That would be Saint Christopher. The legendary saint of the early Christian church who is said to have delivered the child Jesus safely across a river is also the patron of the brave men and women who transport our kids to school and back every day. His feast day is July 25.
Patron Saint of the Sick
There is a patron Saint for just about any illness or malady you can think of. For throat ailments, pray to Saint Blaise. For cancer, Saint Peregrine. For tummy troubles, look to Saint Timothy. But for general sicknesses (and for doctors, too), the saintly one to look to is Saint Michael the Archangel, who will also be there to escort the faithful to Heaven when they die.
These two suggestions are for the tweens and teens in our lives. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and Blessed Chiara Badano are two 20th century Italians who turned the ordinary into the extraordinary. Their lives of simple holiness, giving endlessly of the love of Christ to others, ended with illness at young ages. How special would it be for our kids to establish prayerful relationships with these modern-day young people and then witness their canonizations?!
For further information on patron Saints, take a look at the following websites. Consider yourselves warned, though! Once you get started looking these things up, you might just make a new friend or two.
EWTN’s Saints & Other Holy People
Catholic Online’s Saints and Angels
Saint’s Name Generator
5 Patron Saints of Students
Written by Beth Williby. Find out more about her here.