Archangel and Patron of Physicians
Feast day: September 29
Saint Raphael is one of seven Archangels who stand before the throne of the Lord. Raphael’s name means “God Heals Us.” In the Old Testament (Tobit 11:10-15, 6:7-9,and 3:17), it was Raphael who taught Tobiah how to cure his father’s blindness, after the ministrations of several physicians had succeeded only in making the affliction worse (Tobit 2:10). Raphael is the angel who moved the waters of healing at the sheep-pool (John 5:1-4). Saint Raphael is the patron of the blind, of happy meetings, of travelers, and of nurses, as well as of physicians.
SAINT LUKE – Pro-Life Physician and Evangelist
Feast day: 18 October
Saint Luke, the Evangelist, was a Greek doctor; he was called “Our Beloved Luke, the Physician” by the peripatetic Saint Paul of Tarsus (Col. 4:14). Evidence of Saint Luke’s medical background is peppered throughout his gospel. For example, when the other two synoptic evangelists recorded Christ’s warning that a rich man will have no more ease passing through the gates of heaven than would a camel passing through the eye of a needle, they use the household term for a woman’s sewing needle. Saint Luke, on the other hand, uses the Greek word for a surgeon’s suturing needle. At another point, in telling the story of the woman who suffered from hemorrhage, Saint Luke – keenly aware of the mercenary pitfalls of our profession — adds the sardonic observation that the woman had already spent all of her money seeking the advice of many physicians, and yet had been helped by not a one of them (Luke 8:43-48 vs Matthew 9:20-22) Luke alone of the evangelists recounts Christ’s stunning allegory of compassion and selflessness in the context of providing healing care for the helpless, the injured and afflicted — the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37)
An inherently pro-life physician, Luke uses the same Greek word for “baby”, whether writing about a baby in the womb or about a babe in the manger. And it is he who recounts how Saint John the Baptist, while still in the womb of Saint Elizabeth, leapt for joy at the approach of Jesus, unborn but very much alive, within the womb of his Virgin Mother (Luke 1:39-45). Finally, it is within the Gospel of Saint Luke, that Jesus makes his only reference to us practitioners of medicine: “Physician, heal thyself!” (Luke 4:23).
+ Prayer to Saint Luke +
Most charming and saintly Physician, you were animated by the heavenly Spirit of love. In faithfully detailing the humanity of Jesus, you also showed his divinity and his genuine compassion for all human beings. Inspire our physicians with your professionalism and with the divine compassion for their patients. Enable them to cure the ills of both body and spirit that afflict so many in our day. Amen.
SAINT URSICINUS –Physician/Martyr
Feast day: June 19
d. circa 67
Saint Ursicinus, a physician in Ravenna, was condemned for being a Christian during the persecution of Emperor Nero. His faith began to waver, but he found new strength through the encouragement of Saint Vitalis and met his death with resolve.2
SAINT ALEXANDER –Physician/Martyr of Lyons
Feast day: June 2
Saint Alexander was born in Phrygia, but praticed medicine in Gaul, where he converted to Christianity. “Well known for his love of God and his boldness in spreading the Gospel,”4he was arrested during the persecutions conducted by Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Alexander was caught encouraging fellow Christians, who had been condemned to death, to remain steadfast under torture. With forty-seven other Christians, Alexander was himself then tortured and executed, as one of the Martyrs of Lyons and Vienne.,
SAINT THALELAEUS –Merciful physician and martyr
Feast day: May 20
Saint Thalelaeus, a physician, was martyred with Saints Alexander, Asterius and companions. The son of a Roman general, he earned the epithet, “the Merciful One,” owing to his charitable service to the poor and sick in the town of Anazarbus, in Cilicia (Asia Minor). He was martyred at Aegae, in Cilicia, by beheading after drowning failed to kill him.1
SAINT PANTALEON –Physician Wonder-Worker(also known as Panteleemon, Panteleimon)
Feast Day: July 27
d. circa 300
Saint Pantaleon is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, known for their efficacious response to prayer, who are especially venerated in France and Germany. Pantaleon’s name in Greek, means “the all-compassionate one.” It is said that he was a doctor of such skill that Emperor Maximian, a great persecutor of Christians, employed Pantaleon as his court physician. Pantaleon had been raised as a Christian, but in the fanatically anti-Christian and dissolute court of Maximian, he lost his faith and nearly his soul with his self-indulgent lifestyle.
In time, however, a fellow-Christian restored the Saint Pantaleon to the faith he had abandoned. From that time Pantaleon’s skills were at the disposal of the poor. The wealth he had gained from his successful practice he gave away. Other physicians, jealous of his position at court, saw Pantaleon’s renewed faith as an opportunity for discrediting him. When the persecution of Christians under Emperor Diocletian broke out in Nicomedia in 303, Pantaleon this time refused to reject the faith; instead he chose death. Vain attempts were made to put him to death in six different ways–including drowning, fire, and wild beasts–before he was successfully beheaded amidst a halo of other marvels.
A reputed relic of Pantaleon’s blood, kept at Ravello in southern Italy, displays the phenomenon of liquefaction on his feast day, similar to that of Saint Januarius. Saint Pantaleon has made the news recently, when his relics, on loan from Greece, were placed on display near what had until recently been the site of Lenin’s tomb. People were queuing up for hours, and youth, in particular, flocked to view the Saint’s relics. Russian media are calling the response phenomenal.
In art, Saint Pantaleon is a physician holding a phial of medicine. At times he may be depicted healing a sick child or bound with hands above his head to an olive tree, to which he is nailed. Together with Saint Raphael, Saints Cosmas and Damian, and Saint Luke, Pantaleon is a patron of the medical profession. He is invoked against tuberculosis and other lung diseases, and he is also patron of bachelors and of victims of torture (not that these two latter conditions are necessarily related). ,
SAINTS COSMAS AND DAMIAN – Twin doctors who never charged a fee!
Feast Day: September 27
Date: circa 300
These two saints are venerated in the East as the “moneyless ones,” because they practiced medicine without ever charging their patients a fee. These twin brothers were born in Arabia and studied medicine in Syria. They practiced medicine on the coast of Cilicia in what is now Turkey, with remarkable generosity and outspoken zeal for their Christian faith. Their widespread reputation proved their undoing, when a persecution against Christians broke out. They were quickly arrested, tortured horribly, and beheaded, along with three of their other brothers. Many miraculous healings have since been attributed to their intervention. Saints Cosmas and Damian are considered Patrons of physicians and surgeons, as well as of pharmacists. They, along with Saint Luke, are the three physician saints cited in the canon of the Mass.
SAINTS CYRUS AND JOHN – Martyrs from Arabia and Alexandria
Feast day: January 31
Saint Cyrus was an Alexandrian doctor who used his calling to convert many of his patients to Christianity. He joined an Arabian physician named John in encouraging Athanasia and her three daughters to remain constant in their faith under torture at Canopus, Egypt. They, in turn, were both seized and tortured, and then all six were beheaded.3
SAINT ZENOBIUS –Physician martyred with his sister.
Feast day: October 30
Saint Zenobius was a priest and physician from the town of Aegae, in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), who practiced in Sidon (Palestine). He was tortured to death on the rack, in the city of Antioch, during the persecutions of Diocletian. Zenobia, his sister, was martyred with him.3,
SAINT DIOMEDES –Physician from Tarsus
Feast day: August 16
d. circa 350
A martyr of Nicaea, in Bythinia, Saint Diomedes was originally a physician in Tarsus, in Cilicia. Saint Diomedes was a fervent preacher of the faith. 5
SAINT CAESARIUS OF NAZIANZUS –Sainthood ran in his family
Feast day: February 25
Brother of St. Gregory Nazianzus and son of St. Gregory the Elder, Saint Caesarius studied medicine and philosophy at Alexandria, Egypt, and in Constantinople. Famous as a physician, Caesarius was appointed to the court of Emperor Julian the Apostate, who tried repeatedly to get him to renounce the Christian faith. Caesarius was then only a catechumen, a Christian in training, but he resigned from the court rather than deny Christ. He later served Emperor Jovian as physician and was the treasurer for Emperor Valens.5
SAINT SAMSON –Physician/Priest and Father of the Poor
Feast day: June 27
Also called Samson Xenodochius “the Hospitable,” this latter day Samson was noted not for his physical prowess, but rather for the heroic strength of his character and his compassion. Saint Samson was a doctor renowned for his selfless charity. A physician in Constantinople (modern Istanbul), he went on to become a priest, in order to tend to both the physical and spiritual welfare of his patients. Samson founded a well-known hospital near the Hagia Sophia, in Constantinople. He was revered as “Father of the Poor.”
SAINT EMILIAN –Physician martyred with his cousin
Feast day: December 6
Saint Emilian, a physician in Northern Africa, was flayed alive, along with Saint Tertius, for refusing to convert to the Arian heresy. His cousin, Saint Dionysia, and her son, Saint Majoricus, had already been tortured and burned at the stake.
SAINT WILLIAM FIRMATUS – Physician and Environmentalist
Feast day: April 24
Hermit and pilgrim, physician and canon at Saint-Venance in France, Saint William beheld a vision that prompted him to give away all of his considerable possessions to the poor. He spent the rest of his life on pilgrimages and residing as a hermit. William had a close relationship with nature and was honored by wild animals.2
SAINT PHILIP BENIZI –Student of Galen and Servant of Mary
Feast Day: 23 August
Saint Philip was born in Florence, the answer to prayers of a couple long-married and childless. He undertook the study of medicine, beginning at age 13, in Paris. It is said that his study of the ancient teachings of Galen, though a pagan, spurred him strongly to raise his heart from the contemplation of nature to the worship of its Author. Having completed his studies for a doctorate in medicine and philosophy in Padua by age 19, he took up the profession of medicine in his native Florence. From his first year of practice, Saint Philip combined his commitment to medicine with a fervent devotion to the Holy Bible, and to contemplation of the crucifix – his “textbook” of Faith. Saint Philip was moved to join the newly formed Servites – the Order of the Servants of Mary — as a humble brother, gardener and common laborer. However, his eloquence and spiritual insights soon led his superiors to direct him to Holy Orders. He played an important leadership role in the early formation of the Servite Order and of the Third Order of the Servants of Mary. He was respected as a persuasive peacemaker during these chaotic times in the history of Italy, and as an advisor to Popes. And yet he remained faithful to the austere simplicities of his Order. He died at the hour of the Angelus on the Feast of the Assumption, 1285.
SAINT ANTONY MARY ZACARRIA –A physician saint named Mary
Feast Day: July 5
Saint Antony studied medicine at Padua and returned home to Cremona to practice. He soon learned that his vocation was to heal the souls of men, as well as their bodies. And he took up the study of theology, meanwhile continuing in his profession of medicine, offering spiritual help to the dying and being at the service of all. Ultimately, he was ordained a priest, and became the founder of the Clerks Regular of Saint Paul. His medical training again proved useful in bringing aid to those suffering when a plague afflicted Milan.
SAINT FRANCIS OF NAGASAKI AND/OR SAINT CAIUS FRANCIS –Physician Martyr of Nagasaki
Feast day: February 5
Francis was a native Japanese from Miyako. He became a physician and later was converted to Catholicism by the Franciscan missionaries there. He became a Franciscan tertiary, served as a catechist, and was one of the twenty-six Catholics crucified for their Faith near Nagasaki on February 5, 1597, during a bloody persecution of Christians. He is also known as Francis of Miyako. These saints were all canonized as the “Martyrs of Japan” in 1862.3
(According to Butler’s Lives of the Saints, it was Saint Caius Francis, who was a native-born Japanese physician; while Saint Francis Miyako, a companion martyr, was a native of Korea, but not a physician. However, Katherine I. Rabenstein avers that Francis of Miyako (of Nagasaki), OFM Tert., was a Japanese physician from Miyako, who later in life was converted to Catholicism by the Franciscan missionaries in Japan and became a tertiary and lay catechist.)
SAINT MARTIN DE PORRES –Mirabile dictu – a humble surgeon!
Feast Day – November 5
The life of Saint Martin de Porres is celebrated throughout the universal church for the example it provides of selfless humility, of kindness and of generosity to the poorest of men and to the least of God’s creatures, and of simple, unwavering faith in the Lord.
A mulatto, born out of wedlock, in Lima, Peru, Saint Martin was the illegitimate son of a Spanish knight and a freed slave from Panama. He was raised the victim of poverty and, as a “half-caste,” he was often the object of social contempt. At age twelve, he was apprenticed to a local barber. In those days, the barber, besides performing haircuts, was also expected to be skilled in blood-letting, minor surgery and dentistry.Saint Martin’s surgical and tonsorial skills, as well as his great love for the Lord in the person of the poor, soon brought many to seek his care. Throughout his subsequent life as a Dominican lay-brother, Saint Martin maintained his commitment to medicine and surgery. He ran an infirmary, and was instrumental in founding a foundling hospital. He remained attentive to healing of men’s bodies, as well as of their souls. Many extraordinary miracles are attributed to this humble, little, ‘half-caste’ lay-brother, whose symbols remain the broom and the cross.,
SAINT ANTHONY MARY ZACCARIA –A physician/saint named Mary
Feast Day: July 5
Saint Anthony studied medicine at Padua and returned home to Cremona to practice. He soon learned that his vocation was to heal the souls of men, as well as their bodies. And he took up the study of theology, meanwhile continuing in his profession of medicine, giving spiritual help to the dying and being at the service of all. Ultimately, he was ordained a priest, and became the founder of the Clerks Regular of Saint Paul – the Barnabites. His medical training again proved useful in bringing aid to those suffering when the plague afflicted Milan.
SAINT RENE GOUPIL –Surgeon, Saint, and Proto-martyr of North America; Patron Saint of Anesthesiologists
Feast day: 26 September
Rene Goupil, surgeon and martyr, is one of the least known of those who might be considered physician saints. And yet he is the proto-martyr for all of the North American continent.
Of the North American martyrs, best known are the Jesuit Fathers, Saints Isaac Jogues and John de Brebeuf. Among their ‘companions,’ who suffered with them severely for their Catholic faith, and the first to suffer the ultimate sacrifice of life itself, was a Catholic layman, named Rene Goupil.
“This Rene Goupil was a remarkable man. He had tried hard to become a Jesuit and had even entered the novitiate, but his health forced him to give up the attempt. He then studied surgery and found his way to Canada, where he offered his services to the missionaries, whose fortitude he emulated…
In 1642, the Huron country was in great distress; harvests were poor, sickness abounded, and clothing was scarce. Quebec was the only source of supplies, and Jogues was chosen to lead the expedition. It reached its objective safely and started back, well supplied with goods for the mission, but the Iroquois, the bitter enemies of the Hurons, and the fiercest of all Indian tribes, were on the warpath and ambushed the returning expedition. The story of the ill-treatment and torture of the captives cannot here be told in detail. Suffice it to say that Jogues and his assistant Rene Goupil, besides being beaten to the ground and assailed several times with knotted sticks and fists, had their hair, beards and nails torn off and their forefingers bitten through. What grieved them far more was the cruelty practiced on their Christian converts. The first of all the martyrs to suffer death was Goupil, who was tomahawked on September 29, 1642, for having made the sign of the cross over the brow of children.” ,