Introducing the 31 Categories of Catholic Saint

Introducing the 31 Categories of Catholic Saint January 11, 2024

porcelain figures of smiling nuns playing musical instruments
image via Pixabay


I have been doing a project on the Lives of the Saints.

I’ll have more to say about that by and by.

I have been up to my elbows in hagiographies, learning all kinds of random facts. Did you know that Saint Ignatius of Loyola suffered from gallstones and kidney stones? You do now. Did you know that Saint Teresa of Avila died just as they were switching from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, so she either died just before midnight on October 4th or just after midnight on the 15th depending on who you ask? Now you know.

I’m supposed to be writing three sentences per saint, which is a challenge. The problem is that some saints have virtually no information about them and some saints have tons, but they all get three sentences. A martyr whose name was on a tomb somewhere but nobody’s sure who he was? They get three sentences. A nearly contemporary saint about whom people have written big fat books? Three sentences. Saints I don’t like very much? Three sentences. My favorite saints ever who I’d like to go on about for pages? Three sentences. A saint whose legacy is very controversial and I want to carefully explain their good points while making clear I don’t excuse their misdeeds? Just three little sentences. Three sentences for saints who wrote excruciatingly long navel-gazing autobiographies that are impossible to boil down. Three sentences for poor Saint Matthias, who seems to have gotten lost on the way to the bathroom after he was made an Apostle and was never heard from again.

As I study and write, I’m discovering that every saint in the Catholic calendar can be sorted into one of 31 different categories, which I describe as follows:

1. Grumpy Bearded Cleric Who Refuted Arianism

2. All-Around Nice Guy Who Founded a Confraternity or Religious Order or Something

3. Person Who Cared for the Sick And Caught the Sick and Died

4. Disturbingly Young Girl Who Resisted Rape or Forced Marriage and is Written About in Such A Cutesy Prudish Slut-Shaming Way That It Makes You Want To Barf

5. Medieval Monarch from Poland or Hungary Who Doesn’t Sound Very Nice, Actually

6. Absolutely Fascinating Firebrand Feminist Lady Who We’re Not Supposed To Call a Feminist But She Totally Was And Wrote Letters

7. Child Who Was Sickly

8. Prissy Priest from Pre-Revolutionary France

9. Holy Roman Emperor Whose Wife Had A Silly Name

10. Cleric Who Defended The Church During The Investure Controversy And The King Didn’t Like It

11. Pope Pius of Various Roman Numerals

12. Evil Bully Jerk We Excuse By Saying “His Culture Was Very Different From Ours”

13. Queen  or Noblewoman Who Was A Domestic Violence Victim And Went On To Live Her Best Life In A Convent When Widowed

14. Self-Loathing Neurotic Who Slept On Bare Boards

15. Sassed The Pope

16. Pope With A Name Other Than Pius

17. Patiently Endured Torture and/or Death At The Hands Of The Government and/or The Church

18. Extremely Problematic Antisemite

19. BIPOC Person Who Is Incredibly Awesome But Is Written About In A Cutesy Infantilizing Way That Makes You Want To Barf

20. Absolute Nutcase  (these are my all time favorite saints for the record; Saint Francis is one)

22. Teenager Who Was Not Accepted By Her Parents

23. Italian Woman Who Was Sickly

25. Friendly Lay Person Who Went To Daily Mass
26. French Woman Who Was Sickly (this is, culturally speaking, completely different than the Italian Woman Who Was Sickly) 
27. Witty English Person Who Was Tortured By Anglicans Or Maybe Puritans
28. Person About Whom Nothing Is Known Except They’re An Ancient Roman Martyr So We Made Up A Fun Story
29. Monk or Friar or Nun or Sister Who Was Just Kind of Pleasant And Nice
30. Literally an Angel
31: The Most Holy Virgin Mary

Go on, just try and name a saint who doesn’t fit into that list. And no fair saying Saint Guinefort who was never officially canonized. I’ll wait here.

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