For instance lets say there's a patron saint of infants, but that a recently canonized saint is clearly superior to the previous one when it comes to infants. Is it not then warrented to make the previous saint step down to leave the place of patron saint to someone who is holier?

Catholics, Orthodox, some Anglicans and some Lutherans believe in patron saints. But considering that Catholicism has the most well defined grasp this doctrine I would prefer an answer which agrees with Catholic theology.


Patron saints are not, in general, centrally designated by the Vatican. (St Thomas More is a notable exception. He was declared patron saint of statesmen and politicians by the motu proprio E Sancti Thomae Mori, issued by Pope St John Paul II in 2000.)

The Catholic Encyclopedia's article on patron saints discusses only patron saints of churches and locations. Nevertheless, what it says of these patron saints is true in general:

A patron is one who has been assigned by a venerable tradition, or chosen by election, as a special intercessor with God.

In other words, a saint is considered by the Church to be a patron saint of a particular cause, group of people, or situation simply because a sizable group of people, either in a single locality or more broadly through the Church, has decided to invoke their help for that purpose, and has done so for a long time. It's a very "organic" sort of process.

In the kind of situation you propose, what might happen is that a small group of people would venerate the second saint as the patron saint of infants, either along with or in place of the first. As the number of people invoking this saint's help grew, both saints might separately be considered the patron saint of infants. It isn't at all unusual to have multiple saints as patrons; for example, both St Valentine and St Dymphna are patron saints of people with epilepsy.

(There doesn't appear, by the way, to be a patron saint of infants, but there are three patron saints of children: St Nicholas of Myra, St Raymond Nonnatus, and St Nicholas of Tolentino.)

Finally, it's not necessarily the case, as you seem to imply, that saints who are invoked more often and produce many miracles are by that fact known to be "holier" in some sense. All saints are glad to intercede for us before God, Who chooses His responses at His Will. Even if a miracle, or the desired result, does not come about, God hears and responds. It is God, not the saint, who is responsible for any result, and it is God's decision, not the saint's holiness, that determines the response.

  • Matt I agree on the first part of your response but the second one seems weaker. You're saying that the holiness of the saints does not matter when it comes to doing miracles by their intercession. But that seems to contradict the CCC which says that saints bring their own merits to the treasury of merit. If those merits don't really matter for the purposes of intercession then whether on Earth or in Heaven we should expect an entierly arbitrary distribution of grace. Which is not the case. My view, on this second part, is that the intercessory power of the saint is cadered to his merits. – Destynation Y Oct 28 '17 at 1:49
  • By the way, according to Catholic Online St.Philomena is the patron saint of infants. Although not formally canonized she remains present. – Destynation Y Oct 28 '17 at 1:58
  • @des i think the chilrdren who were killed by herod in the bible may also be the patron saints of infants. – Peter Turner Oct 28 '17 at 2:36
  • @DestynationY Philomena was apparently never officially considered a saint of the Catholic Church: canonlawmadeeasy.com/2013/09/12/… I got my information on infancy patron saints from Catholic Online as well - did I miss something? As far as merits of the saints, why do you say that if those merits don't affect intercession then we'd expect an arbitrary distribution of grace? – Matt Gutting Oct 28 '17 at 10:38
  • @Matt here is the page for St.Philomena catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=98 Maybe they only show canonized saints when doing the classifications. Christ has a virtually infinite amount of merits by doing what he did, and that's why he is warrented to help us out as a human. Since the merits of the saints are added to that pool of merits one would imagine that they have value for intercession. When you ask a holy man on Earth to pray for you, you do so because God says yes more often to him. Because of his merits. That's what I'm projecting – Destynation Y Oct 28 '17 at 11:58

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