Finding your patron saint (or being found)


By collection by User:jobas (self-made from Other photos) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I recently received an email from a woman I know who wondered, for those who weren’t given saints’ names at birth, how is a patron saint determined? She had a particular friend in mind, a convert, who neither had a saint’s name as a given name, nor was she asked to choose a Confirmation name when she entered the Church. This friend did have a favorite saint, but she felt awkward “assigning herself” an official patron saint because of having missed out on the “official” ways of obtaining a patron.

What a sweet and wholesome desire! And a worry so easily remedied, in my mind.

Our first patron saints are, of course, our name saints, if we’re given saints’ names. In the old days, according to Canon Law, if a baby’s first or middle name wasn’t a saint’s name, the priest would bestow one at baptism. I’ve read some funny stories about priests’ choices! But the Code of Canon Law changed in 1983, and the new naming requirements are not so strict. Canon 855 states that, “Parents, sponsors, and the pastor are to take care that a name foreign to Christian sensibility is not given.” That’s it. Basically, most names are totally fine.

So even Catholic babies don’t always have a patron saint these days, which isn’t the end of the world (otherwise Mother Church would have retained the requirement of a saint’s name), though I do love St. John Chrysostom’s perspective:

So let the name of the saints enter our homes through the naming of our children, to train not only the child but the father, when he reflects that he is the father of John or Elijah or James … Do not because it is a small thing regard it as small; its purpose is to succour us.” (source)

Fortunately, many many names either are saints’ names or can be connected to a saint somehow—choosing saint-less names is harder than it may seem! But if a person truly has such a name (in both the first and middle name spots), and hasn’t had the opportunity to choose a Confirmation name, there are several other ways of determining a patron saint:

Birthday’s feast day

Every day of the year is the feast of at least one saint, often more than one (see here). I personally have always felt more connected to my birthday saint (St. Rose of Lima) than to my name saint (my given name is Katherine, chosen because it’s a saint’s name, and I do love all the ones I know about, but I’ve never felt connected to any of them). If, as many people say, you don’t choose your patron saint—rather, he or she chooses you—then looking to the feast day of the day you were born is a pretty great method of finding your patron.

Interests, talents, hobbies, job, vocation, heritage

God made each of us with interests and talents that reveal themselves in and point us toward hobbies and jobs, and indeed our lives’ vocations, and there’s a patron saint for every one of those details. Many of us feel a particular attachment to our cultural heritage—there’s a patron saint for every country and diocese, and many cities. Even particular sicknesses and struggles have their own patron saints—those who suffer might find those saints to seem closer to them than any other.

Name meanings

One of the name books on my shelf is Dictionary of Patron Saints’ Names by Fr. Thomas Sheehan, in which he attempted to list many (most?) of the names in use in the English language that he could think of and say who would be the patron saint for each name, based on things like meaning, sound, attributes that kind of thing—a way of backfitting into a patron saint. And the web sites Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources and Behind the Name are the most trustworthy sites I know of for name meanings, etymology, etc., and Behind the Name allows you to search for names with the same meaning, so that’s another way to go—if you knew could find names with the same meaning as yours.

Patron saint generator

Finally, perhaps the epitome of the “your patron saint chooses you” idea (other than the saint whose feast falls on your birthday) is a patron saint generator. Some parishes do such a thing around New Year’s, where you’re able to blindly pick a folded piece of paper with a saint’s name on it from a basket. There’s also the online tool Saint’s Name Generator.

All these are perfectly valid ways of choosing a patron saint (or allowing a patron saint to choose you), as there are no requirements to make such a thing “official.” You can also see how easy it is for one person to have many patron saints—for example, one’s first name, one’s middle name, one’s Confirmation name, a saint connected to hobbies/job/vocation, and I’ve seen people choose patron saints for their families and work and ministries, for each new year, and for different seasons of life. The more the merrier! What a blessing and help it is to have so many heavenly friends in your corner.

Do you consider your patron saint to be your name saint? If not, how did you choose your patron? Do you feel drawn to more than one saint?

Copyright 2015 Katherine Morna Towne
Photo: Europe Patron Saints Mosaic by collection by User:jobas (self-made from Other photos) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Featured image: photo by Suomi (2015) via Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain.


About Author

Kate is a writer, lifelong lover of names, wife to a really good man, and mama to their six boys ages 2 to 11. She shares her thoughts on Catholic baby naming at Sancta Nomina.


  1. I love this! I missed an opportunity for a confirmation Saint because circumstances in my life required I be confirmed shortly after my baptism. I only recently chose a saint, St Teresa of Avila, for a number of reasons including family ties, but recently, it seems St Rose of Lima is reaching out to me in friendship. Imagine my surprise to read her name here! Pick all the saints! I’m running with a posse these days 😉

  2. Love the article, Kate. So much great info to connect us to saints – I agree with it all. I find that at different times I increase my interest/devotion to different new saints due to a patronal need, a family or historical connection, etc. For example a few years ago felt drawn to learn more about and read the writings of St. Alphonsus, because the hospital where I was born was named for him.
    My middle baptismal name and also confirmation name is Teresa (of Avila) – great patron.

    • Thanks for commenting Mary! I love how seemingly random things — like the name of the hospital at which you were born — don’t seem so random as life goes on. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if St. Alphonsus had you in his sights since you were babe. 🙂

  3. Amazing – I also have St. Theresa of Avila as my Confirmation Saint ( had never heard of her before, but that was the name I gave the Bishop). She chose me. I had many years of growing up and growing into the faith before I appreciated why she had chosen to watch over me. And I am so thankful.
    I didn’t pay much attention to names when I first started having children, but now that #7 has been born, we tacked on a third Saint name, just to be sure she has many friends to guide her! Brigid (of Ireland) Zelie’ (St. Zelie, but pronounced differently) Rose (Rose of Lima and Mystical Rose) Poppe!

    May our patron Saints pray for us!

    • Ohh Cassandra, Brigid Zelie Rose is beautiful!! I actually kind of love when I can see parents’ growth in their faith by looking at their children’s names and how their name tastes changed as they went along. It’s like the timeline of one’s faith journey!

  4. I like what you say here about choosing a patron. When I was confirmed, we were told that if we already had a middle name we wouldn’t get a Confirmation name too. And I kind of feel like I missed out on that saint connection!

    My Secular Franciscan fraternity follows a Franciscan custom called “extraction of saints” in which we choose a patron saint for the year. We do this each January. Then, during the year, we learn about our chosen saint on our own, perhaps reading a biography or some of the saint’s writings if those are available.

    • I love this custom Barb, and so great that it’s connected to your fraternity! (Speaking of fraternities … I’m in the Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic!)

      I would be bummed if I wasn’t able to choose a Confirmation saint, but it sounds like you’ve more than made up for it! If you could have chosen a Confirmation name back then, what would you have chosen? And if you could choose one today, would it be the same or different?

  5. I didn’t get a saint name, at Birth, Baptism or Confirmation. In my 20’s I adopted St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Michael the Archangel (not sure this was appropriate, but no matter), based upon their patronages and virtues I wanted to develop. Thanks for this article!

    • Vanessa, St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Michael the Archangel sound perfect! And such good reasons too — “based upon their patronage and virtues I wanted to develop.” So great! (By “not sure this was appropriate,” did you mean because you chose two of them instead of one? Or because Michael is a boy’s name? Either way, they’re totally fine and completely appropriate!)

  6. I love the idea of “being found!”
    Feeling those “connections” as you say is really a mystical adventure! My Mom was orphaned when her Mom brought her to a foundling home because she did not feel she could take care of her. My Grandmother said her name was Mary and had named my Mom, Anna. My Mom was also baptized by a Dominican Priest. That was 105 years ago. Today I am a Lay Member of the Dominican Order whose religious name is Sr. Mary Dominic. My Baptismal name is Susanne. Speaking of Mary, Anna, and St. Dominic, the story seemed to represent “what goes around comes around.” Doesn’t seem hard to me to feel special Grace having come my way…

  7. i had stumbled upon your article while looking for a fitting prayer for my aunt who found out she has carcinoma. i sort of assigned St Rita of Cascia as my patron saint because i grew closer to St Rita while i was looking after my grandpa in the hospital last year. although he passed away, i thank St Rita for uplifting me to be able to look after my grandpa, alleviating his pains, and also helping me gradually accept that it is his time to rest and be with God. i was born jan 29th and i dont think ive read of saint having that as feast day..? then, one day..looking for prayers again, i realized i DO have Rit(a) in my name which is Jedritzelle. imagine my must be why i felt connected to her right away.

  8. Many years ago I prayed as hard as I knew how in 8th grade. I believe the Holy Spirit lead me to choose st Elizabeth Ann Seton. Many years later I began to see circumstances in my own life that St Elizabeth would understand and intercede for. I now turn to her in all homeschool problems or weaknesses. Since she was a mother and teacher to her own. Also my name is derived from Elizabeth.

  9. I really enjoyed this article! While my patron name saints have always been St. John the Baptist and St. Anne (although my name is neither of those exactly!), last found the idea to choose a patron saint for the year for your family. While last year I chose St. Dorothy as a bride-to-be (and many thanks to her for a beautiful and stress-free wedding), this year I chose St. Nicholas, patron saint of newlyweds. Nicholas is also my husband’s name, and I was born on his feast day, so he actually might just continue to be our family patron saint! Thanks to this column for inspiring the idea!

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