cathAs the political epicenter of the Catholic Church and with thousands of years of Christian tradition influencing the culture, Italy is a country where saints are an important part of daily life.  Unique to the Catholic sect of Christianity but serving a similar function as bodhisattvas in Buddhism, saints are people who achieved an extra-holy status during life, whether through prayers or good deeds or miracles, and seen as being able to intercede to God on our behalf .  As such, certain saints are patrons of very specific areas, and if you pray to them directly they will do their utmost to help you with your crisis.  Here are five of Italy’s most widely invoked:

  1. St. Anthony. An old favorite of little old ladies and scatterbrained people everywhere, St. Anthony was a Portuguese Franciscan friar of the 13th century, famous for preaching to the fish of the Italian countryside. His enduring popularity owes to the fact that he is the patron saint of finding lost things; plenty of Catholics worldwide will swear that praying to him is all you need to find your missing glasses, which may or may not have been on your head the whole time.
  2. St. Jude. Less widely petitioned than St. Anthony, Jude was one of Jesus’s twelve disciples who later went on to preach the Gospel across the Middle East. Due to letters he wrote urging people to persevere in difficult circumstances, he is remembered today as the patron saint of lost causes and desperate
  3. St. Catherine of Siena. Catherine of Siena came of age during an age when mysticism and stoicism were in vogue, and as a teenager she joined a convent and started seeing visions of Heaven and Hell. Prompted by disembodied voices, she began to take an interest in the political realm and wrote letters to the leaders of various Italian city-states urging them to unite.  After receiving the Stigmata and surviving an assassination attempt, she retired to a life of prayer and contemplation.  Her letters, written in the Tuscan vernacular, are still read today and she is remembered as the patron saint of fire, sexual temptation, Italy, miscarriages, among other things.
  4. St. Francis of Assisi. Born in the 12th century in Assisi, Umbria, Francis went on to found the Franciscan Order. Originally destined to become a merchant, Francis gave up his worldly pursuits and took a vow of poverty.  Wandering through the wilderness in his iconic brown robe and sandals, he was famous for being able to speak to animals and preaching sermons to flocks of birds.  He is still a great favorite of all animal lovers.
  5. Padre Pio. A more recent saint is Padre Pio, born in the late 19th century and virtually unknown outside of Italy. A capuchin friar, he was famous in the Italian countryside for performing miracles and prophesying, despite Vatican persecution.  He bore the Stigmata (crucifixion-style wounds on his hands and feet) until he died, and many people still claim to have been healed by praying to him.

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