Every child deserves a saint posse, a group of intercessors with her best interests at heart. Choose your child’s patron saint with this thoughtful guide to contemplation, prayer, and discernment. (Grab the patron saint toolkit right here.)
This has the capacity to raise a lot of eyebrows, not the least of which belong to the priests who performed our children’s baptisms. We chose old southern family surnames for each of our kiddos, and I fully accept the fact that when I rattle off their names it sounds less like a litany and more like the roster of a Charleston graveyard.
Why did we do this? Family history, for one. Genealogy is important to me, and I’ve devoted an extensive amount of time tracing family lines back to the 16th century (and visiting ancestral homeplaces, when I can find them). But we also understood that while the Church does encourage parents to name their children after established saints, virtues, or Biblical characters, it isn’t required.
- Our family surnames represent good, Christian men and women
- Our family surnames adhere to Canon Law
- Our family surnames leave space for our children to connect with a personal patron – one chosen based on temperament and experiences, rather than their given name.
Given those three points, we felt confident we could choose names for our children that reflected our family’s growth over the centuries. Moreover, they gave us the chance to save space for a patron who fit our children, inside and out.
Why We Need Patron Saints
The truth is, the saints are a gift to us from our Divine Creator, “witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom…[sharing] in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today.” While they are in heaven in union with God, “[t]hey contemplate [him], praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth.” (CCC2683)
As the Catechism so clearly explains, our devotion to the saints as Catholics is not a matter of idolatry. Rather, it is a matter of unique kinship and protection, for “When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were ‘put in charge of many things.’ [Cf. Mt 25:21.] Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan.”
“We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.” (CCC 2683).
There are patron saints for everything, from various professions to matters of the heart. Typically, these designations are bestowed by Papal authority and based on a saint’s interests, occupations, and actions prior to death. As a result, we can select a patron at any time and for any reason. What a gift to have someone who not only understands our struggles and triumphs but intercedes on our behalf!
Seasons change. Interests develop. Children grow at breakneck speed.
A child’s patron saint, therefore, is something to revisit, especially at each juncture of a child’s life.
Choosing Your Child’s Patron Saint
“Choice” is a funny word here because, for the most part, it is really the saints who choose us. When we open our hearts to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we are cooperating with an abundant grace. We allow Him to align us with the appropriate intercessor, a perfect patron for the unique nature He has imbued in our souls.
How do we know the truth of that alignment, though, when it’s not always easy to determine God’s will? Add in the complicating factor that our children are their own individual people, and the process can seem daunting, at best.
This is when I turn to pen and paper and start keeping track of my observations and thoughts. I take a moment to consider my children’s personalities, interests, strengths, and weaknesses, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide my choice.
Step One: List Characteristics
For this step, I list the three words I most associate with the child I’m addressing. I try to focus on the aspects of their personality that are distinct to them alone, and write them down as they come:
- DD 1: thoughtful, sensitive, caring
- DD 2: gregarious, social, charming
- DS 1: cuddly, playful, active
Step Two: Consider Family Constellation and Role
Where does this child fall in line with his/her siblings? What role does he/she play in the home? Is he a peacemaker? A motivator? Mischevious? A Goof?
Step Three: Write Down Your Child’s Strengths
In what ways does your child shine? Does she have strong interpersonal skills? Does he have a strong devotion to his faith? Does she love math? Science? Does he enjoy sports? Theater? Music?
Step Four: Be Realistic About Areas for Growth
What special concerns do you have for this child? Are they developmental? Behavioral? Both? In what areas would you like to see your child grow and become stronger?
Step Five: Pray
This is perhaps the hardest part, because the response may not always seem immediate. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart to His voice and give you guidance as to the right patron for your child. If your child is enough, you can ask him or her to join you in prayer. Ask your child what saint, if any, he has a special affinity for, and take that into account as well.
Step Six: Make a List
If you don’t have an answer yet, make a list of the possible matches rattling around in your head. Take a look at my patron saint toolkit – a reusable resource filled with 100+ saints, sorted by interest, temperament, hobbies, and more!
Choosing a patron saint for your child isn’t rocket science, but it isn’t a magic trick, either.
It is a process of contemplation, prayer, and discernment, wherein the Holy Spirit provides wisdom and knowledge. Sometimes that knowledge comes easily (my two oldest are definitely Francis of Assisi and Joan of Arc), and sometimes it takes a while (I’m leaning toward Bl Pier Giorgio Frassati for my youngest, but John Paul the Great is a front-runner, too). In any case, we cooperate with God’s grace in every aspect of our parenting, and the selection of an intercessor is yet another opportunity to work in and through that love.
My children may not be named after saints directly, but they’ve still got a powerful posse up above.
Need a little help picking a patron?
Check out volume one of the Not So Formulaic Family Toolkit Series: Choosing Your Child's Patron Saint
- Learn the history and importance of patron saints
- Develop a family mission statement step by step
- Discern your child's temperament and discover saints that match
- Brainstorm your child's gifts, talents, charisms and hobbies to identify strengths and areas for growth
- Discover 100+ saints categorized by interest, talents, gifts, and hobbies
- Discern God's will for your child's patron saint posse using guidelines adapted from Fr. Michael Scanlon and Dr. Peter Kreeft