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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Fourteen Holy Helpers

Sister Mary Martha, I am not a Catholic but am an avid follower of your blog-- your common sense, excellent reasoning, humor, compassion-- OK, I'll save the rest 'til they ask me to give your eulogy-- but anyway, I am so often uplifted and thought-provoked by what you say. At any rate: what's up with holy helpers? As in: who are they, why, etc? I know that there's always The Google, but your explanations are most often concise and informative, not to mention (as far as I know) accurate.

Aren't you nice? Thank you for all the lovely compliments!
This is an excellent place to start a list for our times! What are the Fourteen Holy Helpers? I wish I could tag the picture above like they do on Facebook.

I hope I can also iron out the reason the Fourteen Holy Helpers were locked in the cloak room along with terms like "cloak room".

The Holy Helpers were a list of saints that were invoked together starting in the 14th century in Germany.  The list of saints were asked for their collective intercession because of the Black Plague. Here is the list:

St. Agatha.......headaches
St. Barbara......against sudden death
St. Blaise.........against throat problems and for the protection of domestic animals
St. Catherine of Alexandria........against sudden death
St. Christopher....against the Black Plague and for safe travel
St. Cyriacus.........against temptation on the deathbed
St. Denis..............against headache (that's him holding his own head in the picture above)
St. Erasmus..........against intestinal maladies
St. George.............protection of domestic animals
St. Giles.................against the Plague and for a good confession, cripples, beggars and blacksmiths
St. Margaret of Antioch.....safe childbirth
St. Pantaleon........against cancer and TB and for doctors
St. Vitus...............against epilepsy and for the protection of domestic animals

That would be a mouthful, so everyone just prayed to the Fourteen Holy Helpers. The devotion spread like the plague.

Wait..I meant..it spread the way the plague did.    No...I mean, because the plague was spreading the devotion spread.


They had their own feast day on August 8th. At one point the devotion had become so popular that a plenary indulgence was attached. That is no longer the case. And the feast day is no more, as well.

Now we zoom from the 14th century to the 20th century, where we find that quite a few of these saints are not what they were cracked up to be. Meaning that we really don't know as much about them as we thought. St. Christopher is a great example. The Fourteen Holy Helpers are disbanded. They still each have their own individual feast days, although some of them didn't even have that for a while. St. Catherine of Alexandria lost her feast day for a while there, but now it's back. Good luck finding a St. Catherine of Alexandria medal, though. It annoys me. She appeared to St. Joan of Arc, for Heaven's sake!

That's pretty much it in a nutshell. I might add that all those saints for the protection of domestic animals were on there because animals also got the Black Plague.

So in order to come up with a new list of saints, we'll first have to come up with a list of modern problems for which we need Heavenly prayers.

Two spring to mind for me: our violent world and cancer. What do you think?


Dual Role Grandma said...


Leticia Austria said...

Is there a patron saint for Alzheimer's and dementia? If not, there should be!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Sister. I love your blog.

I recently ordered the weight watchers' bracelet from your etsy site. This got me thinking: is it really okay for me to ask God to help me with my weight? My weight seems so unimportant in the grand scheme of things. I think I spend too much time thinking about my excess pounds right now...should I ask God to think about them, too, when there are so many bigger problems in the world? Am I being vain? I need all the help I can get, but is there a right and a wrong way to go about doing this thing?

Maureen said...

I'm devoted to the Archangel Raphael and believe he is helping to heal my son - ( he has leukemia).But if there is anyone specific for blood cancer, I think that would be a very useful saint to have in the armory.

Bill Scott said...

They've been disbanded?? Did anyone tell Fourteen Holy Helpers parish in West Seneca, NY (near Buffalo)?

Claudia said...

I think it is perfectly find to ask for help when loosing weight. We all need a bit of strength to overcome different things.

I would not say it is vanity but rather it is a health issue. A person may feel fine now but sooner than later it will become a health problem.

Arkanabar said...

@Anonymous post Letitia Austria: There's also the sin of gluttony. Getting into the habit of eating virtuously and exercising self-restraint in eating helps reinforce self-restraint and virtuous behavior in other areas.

Mph said...

One for the modern list would be a saint to protect unborn children. I hate the fact that it's become common place to abort any child that's considered an inconvenient accident or shows some "defect" in the screening and testing done these days. Also to protect old and sick people from being killed off in hospitals at the say of some doctor or judge.

Marion Teague said...

Two things spring to mind. Aids and addictions.

Anonymous said...

As I mentioned in the comments about St. Dymphna, I think "mental and emotional strength to live in peace and harmony under the strain of modern living" is a major need. That's from St. Jude's novena. Other saints that come to mind are St. Pio ("Pray, hope, and don't worry,") St. Gianna for pro-life causes, and St. Thomas More. Is there a patron saint for religious freedom/conscience rights?

Thanks again for this blog!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to clutter the combox, but I forgot to mention St. Michael! Who better to assist us during such times as these?

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I suggest a patron saint for spoiled, lazy children and helicopter parents. And is there anyone who can step up and be a patron saint for those annoyed by endless, banal twitter posts and facebook pages - which some times seem to be altars to me me me?

Mph said...

Another one I would like to see on the modern list is a saint for autism, as it is on the increase and has personal significance for me.

Gigi said...

Is there a Holy Helper to guard against apathy Sister? A horrible affliction and one that spreads insidiously.
Disbanded? By whom? BTW, I keep hearing from non-Catholic friends that St Christopher really isn't a patron saint anymore because he can't be fully verified... His medal was attached to my Mum's house keys for years after my Dad died and she took it from his own wallet. After a long life, Mum's keyring now guards my keys.I'll give him a reference if he needs one!