Why Invoke the Fourteen Holy Helpers

To modern Catholics who have seen much of their heritage forgotten and neglected – especially over the last few generations – few likely have heard of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. But the Fourteen Holy Helpers were honored for centuries and they should not be forgotten. They are a group of 14 saints who are patrons against various diseases and calamities. 

Devotion to some of these saints goes back to the times of the Roman persecutions. For example, St. Blasé is one of the best known on account of the liturgical rite associated with his intercession. Every 3rd of February, in the middle of the cold/flu season, Catholics receive a blessing on their throat with blessed candles and a prayer invoking this saint. Saint Blasé was a bishop of Sebaste (Armenia) renowned for miraculously healing many. However, in 316 A.D. Emperor Licinius ordered his martyrdom. En route to his death, a mother presented her son who was dying of asphyxiation. The saint prayed over him and the boy coughed up a bone and was saved. Saint Blasé was led away by the soldiers to be scourged and then beheaded.

While many miracles are credited to each of these Holy Helpers, devotion to them as a group originated in Germany in the 14th century, largely as a result of the bubonic plague. These 14 saints appeared on a hilltop venerating the Christ Child. This was witnessed first by a shepherd. The apparitions were authenticated by the local bishop, and a beautiful rococo basilica was built to honor these holy intercessors in obedience to the Christ Child’s request.

The miracles attributed to these saints won for them the distinction as “The Fourteen Holy Helpers.” And even in our modern era, when we thankfully and by the grace of God have a wide number of treatments and cures for illnesses, we can invoke their patronage for the many souls who die each year in less developed parts of the world due to a number of treatable or incurable diseases.

Who Are the Fourteen Holy Helpers?

    1. St. Agathius (May 8)
    2. St. Barbara (Dec. 4)
    3. St. Blaise (Feb. 3)
    4. St. Catherine of Alexandria (Nov. 25)
    5. St. Christopher (July 25)
    6. St. Cyriacus (Aug. 8)
    7. St. Denis (Oct. 9)
    8. St. Erasmus (June 2)
    9. St. Eustace (Sept. 20)
    10. St. George (April 23)
    11. St. Giles (Sept. 1)
    12. St. Margaret of Antioch (July 20)
    13. St. Pantaleon (July 27)
    14. St. Vitus (June 15)

For a short account of the lives of each of these saints, click here for a PDF.

Indulgences Attached to Their Devotion

Indulgences were attached to devotions to the Fourteen Holy Helpers by Pope Nicholas. All of these saints have individual feast days as part of the Traditional Catholic Calendar. (Note: These dates are indicated on The Fatima Center’s 2022 Calendar, available here.) Unfortunately, in the Novus Ordo Calendar changes of 1969, four of them lost individual feast days, several were ‘demoted’ to optional memorials, and others confusingly had their feast days moved. They are all, however, still honored in the Tridentine Mass in the 1962 Missal and the versions preceding it.

The Fourteen Holy Helpers are celebrated as a group on August 8th, though this feast day was never a part of the General Roman Catholic Calendar but instead is celebrated only in certain places.

What Are the Fourteen Holy Helpers Invoked Against?

Father Bonaventure Hammer summarizes:

“Saint Christopher and Saint Giles were invoked against the plague itself. Saint Denis was prayed to for relief from headache, Saint Blaise for ills of the throat, Saint Elmo [also known as St. Erasmus] for abdominal maladies, Saint Barbara for fever, and Saint Vitus against epilepsy. Saint Pantaleon was the patron of physicians, Saint Cyriacus invoked against temptation on the deathbed, and Saints Christopher, Barbara, and Catherine for protection against a sudden and unprovided for death. Saint Giles was prayed to for a good confession and Saint Eustace as healer of family troubles. Domestic animals were also attacked by the plague, so Saints George, Elmo, Pantaleon, and Vitus were invoked for their protection. Saint Margaret of Antioch is the patron of safe childbirth.”

Saint Agathius (also known as St. Acacius), not mentioned above, is invoked against headaches and was one of the patron saints that soldiers called upon when battling against the Moslem [Ottoman] Turks.

If you are looking for more information on these 14 saints, we suggest a copy of The Fourteen Holy Helpers by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer.

Invoke the Fourteen Holy Helpers

The heroic accounts of these 14 holy saints should inspire us. Regardless of what elements of these stories are mere legend and which are historically accurate, these men and women did persevere in the Catholic Faith and ultimately won Heaven despite many torments.

What can we do to share the Catholic Faith and to spread it? What can we do to spread devotion to the saints and to combat the errors of Protestantism, secularism, atheism, and other false ideologies?

Today, pray to the Fourteen Holy Helpers and make a firm resolution to do three things this month to spread the Catholic Faith. The St. Vincent Ferrer Foundation has a Novena to the Fourteen Holy Helpers. Other novenas to the Holy Helpers are also available at various Catholic websites.

Editor’s Note: The Fourteen Holy Helpers are powerful intercessors against all plagues and illnesses. We therefore strongly recommend developing a pious and fervent devotion to them in these times when so many people are concerned about the illnesses caused by viruses and vaccines. Another favorite devotion is a short and powerful Novena to the Holy Helpers  This one is normally said on the hour, nine times, over the course of nine hours to stave off a coming illness. (It is available as a prayer card also from the St. Vincent Ferrer Foundation.)

On one occasion, when our family set off on a trip that involved a twelve-hour car drive, one of our children began to show signs of flu and vomiting. Parents know how terrible this experience can be, especially when the entire family is traveling away from home and all confined in close proximity moving 70 mph down the highway. We immediately began praying this short novena to the Fourteen Holy Helpers. Against all our expectations, neither the child nor any other members of the family got sick. Ever since then we’ve been committed to this devotion and daily invoke the Fourteen Holy Helpers to protect our family.

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