"So many poor people come here that I very often wonder how we can care for them all, but Jesus Christ provides all things and nourishes everyone. Many of them come to the house of God, because the city of Granada is large and very cold, especially now in winter. More than a hundred and ten are now living here, sick and healthy, servants and pilgrims. Since this house is open to everyone, it receives the sick of every type and condition: the crippled, the disabled, lepers, mutes, the insane, paralytics, those suffering from scurvy and those bearing the afflictions of old age, many children, and above all countless pilgrims and travelers, who come here, and for whom we furnish the fire, water, and salt, as well as the utensils to cook their food. And for all of this no payment is requested, yet Christ provides."1
-St. John of God
In this spirit, I want to take ten illnesses and diseases of a more serious nature, and list the major patron saint for them below, in hopes that those in need can always know they have a friend in heaven praying especially for them before the throne of God. Try talking to them in prayer as you would a trusted friend.
I grew up as a child still in the heyday of the panic over AIDS, and all the ensuing prejudice, misunderstandings, and all the rest that followed. I remember that it was almost viewed as being a disease as catchy as the common cold, and everyone was terrified. How little everyone seemed to know about it all, at least when I view it in retrospect.
For sufferers of AIDS, I found that their special patron saint is a fiery young Jesuit by the name of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a favorite student of St. Robert Bellarmine, one of the leading lights of the Counter-Reformation and a Doctor of the Church. St. Aloysius' life was a short one - he died ministering to the sick at the age of 23.
Though St. Aloysius is certainly more well known, St. Luigi Scrosoppi deserves a mention under this heading too, for it was his intercession that cured young and terminally ill Peter Changu Shitima of AIDS - "One of his doctors, Dr. Pete de Toit, said: 'I sent him home because he was a terminal patient, and he returned brimming with health.'2
One of the more famous Irish saints, St. Dymphna is not officially the patron saint of neurological disorders, but from what I have gathered, she is unofficially prayed to as a patron of those who suffer from them, given her patronage of any affliction of the mind or nervous system in general.
I have two friends, one from childhood and one from youth, who are both afflicted with this horrible condition. If you know someone who is suffering from MS or some other neurological disease, ask St. Dymphna for her prayers for them.
I love St. John of God - he is one of my newest favorite saints of the Church. Like many saints, he lived a life of sin before suddenly being hit with a conversion experience so powerful that it caused him to do an about face and turn his life to Christ. He worked tirelessly for the sick and dying, and remains the patron of those especially afflicted with diseases of the heart.
4. Breast Cancer -St. Agatha
The very idea of breast cancer hits home for me - my own mother was diagnosed with an advanced stage of breast cancer in early 2011, and it was absolutely terrifying. I cannot even imagine what she went through during that time - I remember praying for so long one day that the candle glass actually split down the middle and broke from the heat. It was a dark time for the soul, that is for certain. Thanks be to God, she is still here today.
Unfortunately, many women suffer through breast cancer in their lives - I've heard it said that it's one in two women who get it, but I hope this statistic is wrong. Nonetheless, breast cancer sufferers have their own patron saint especially. Though St. Peregrine is the patron of saint of those suffering of any kind of cancer, it is an early Christian martyr named St. Agatha who is the go-to saint for those struggling with breast cancer, due to the particularly insidious tortures she suffered at the hands of her persecutors for her refusal to renounce Christ.
I suppose it is a little morbid at first glance that some of the patron saints for various ailments are so because of the hideous tortures they were put through. Martyred by disembowelment, it seems natural that St. Erasmus be the patron of bowel disorders and stomach ailments in general. But it is those with appendicitis that he seems to be specifically known to be the patron of.
I have been looking around for a patron saint of diabetics for quite some time now, as I have a few friends who suffer from it; plus, it seemed that there simply wasn't a patron for diabetics period, as though it was an ailment simply not on the charts yet.
Along comes St. Paulina, the first canonized Brazilian citizen. St. Paulina was a nun of the Little Sisters of the Immaculate Conception whose life work was taking care of slaves and their children who were abandoned and left to die, as well as orphans. Though it is unofficial, because she suffered from diabetes for most of her life, she has become the patroness of those suffering from it.
1 - From here.
2 - qtd. in Michael McMahon, Saints: The Art, the History, the Inspiration, pg. 410