Catholics throughout history have used medals as a reminder of the faith and the lives of the saints. The images of the saints remind us about the details of their lives, and they give us a way to remember to imitate the holiness of the great ones who have gone before us. Each time someone places one of these medallions around their neck, it’s a physical reminder to be faithful.
Join us as we explore the lives of the saints featured on a few of our most popular Catholic medals. Not only do the medals present the images of the most popular saints, but they are also sacramentals, used by faithful Catholics as a part of the sanctified and spiritual life the laity.
Canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 17th, 1925, St. Therese of Lisieux is famous for her love of flowers and thought of herself as a little flower of Jesus. Born Marie-Francoise-Therese Martin, she entered a Carmelite convent in Lisieux, France, in 1887. While there, she struggled with tuberculosis until she died at just 24 years old.
We know St. Therese of Lisieux best from her autobiography, Story of a Soul. Divided into three manuscripts, she describes her spiritual journey as a “little way of spiritual childhood.” Her book inspired many others to imitate her childlike faith. St. Therese’s feast day is October 1st, and she is the patron saint of the missions.
St. Benedict of Nursia, spelled “Norsia” today, was the founder of the Benedictine order of monks and is called the father of western monasticism. Benedict grew up in Rome, and he was dismayed by the lifestyle he witnessed there. He left the city to find a place where he could live, fully dedicated to God and in the company of virtuous men.
After living as a hermit for a number of years, St. Benedict wrote the rule of St. Benedict, and he founded numerous monasteries throughout Europe. Many of these monasteries remain today, and monks still follow his rule. In addition to the traditional vows of the religious life, Benedictine monks take a vow of stability, meaning they stay in the same community their whole life. St. Benedict’s feast day is July 11th and is the patron saint of Europe.
St. Jude was one of the twelve apostles that Jesus sent into the world to proclaim the gospel. Also known as Judas Thaddaeus, he can be easily confused with Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus. Tradition holds that Judas preached the gospel through Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia and Libya as well as visiting Beirut and Edessa.
Artists typically depict St. Jude with an ax to show the means by which he was martyred in about 65 AD in Beirut. His remains now rest in St. Peter’s basilica in Rome. St. Jude is the patron saint of lost or desperate causes, inspiring many hospitals. His feast day is October 28th.
St. Christopher is one of the most popular saints in the world. Despite this, we know little about his life outside of legend. St. Christopher was converted by a hermit, but Christopher did not want to fast or to pray like a monk. Instead, he committed himself to carrying people across a raging river.
One day, he carried a child across the river. As he went, the child got heavier and heavier until St. Christopher asked about it. The child revealed himself as Christ himself, and he proved it by causing St. Christopher’s staff to grow into a tree.
This miracle converted many, but enraged the local king, who arrested and killed St. Christopher. His name means “bearer of Christ,” and he is the patron saint of travelers. His feast day is July 25th.
Saint Michael the Archangel is unique in this list, because he is the only non-human, which means he is not a saint in the classic sense. The Bible mentions St. Michael in a few places:
● Daniel, chapter 12: Michael is the prince of God’s people in charge of protecting them until the end times.
● Daniel, chapter 10: Michael comes to the prophet Daniel’s aid to defeat the prince of the kingdom of Persia, possibly a demon.
● Jude, chapter 1: The archangel holds a dispute with Satan over the body of Moses.
● Revelation, chapter 12: Michael leads a heavenly army against the dragon and defeats him.
Because of these biblical references, the church says that St. Michael has these duties:
● To fight Satan
● To bring the faithful to heaven
● To fight for all Christians
● To call all the world to their judgment
St. Michael, the archangel’s feast day is September 29th, and he is the patron of police officers and soldiers.