Saints alive




There are no fewer than 314 Patron Saints. Every continent, country, place, occupation, ailment, illness, and danger has a patron saint to call its own. And the military is no exception. Special thanks to Paul J. Els for help with the research.

Let’s face it, being in the military can sometimes be a bit of a hazardous occupation. Especially when someone decides to go and start a war.

When you’re in harms way you will try and make full use of any knowledge, training, technology and equipment that is available to try and ensure your protection.

If you can whistle up the support of a few guardian angels, why not. Even better, how about having your very own patron saint.

There are no fewer than 314 Patron Saints. Every continent, country, place, occupation, ailment, illness, and danger has a patron saint to call its own. And the military is no exception.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the patron saints that are linked to the military. Some of them are patron saints of a number of military and non-military occupations. For example, St Adrian is the patron saint of arms dealers, guards, and soldiers. But he is also the patron saint of butchers.

St Adrian of Nicomedia

Patron Saint of arms dealers, guards, and soldiers.

Saint Adrian (also known as Hadrian) or Adrian of Nicomedia (died 4 March 306) was a Herculian Guard of the Roman Emperor Galerius Maximian.

St Barbara.

Patron Saint of artillerymen, military engineers and fire fighters, Italian marines, and service-men of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces.

Saint Barbara, known in the Eastern Orthodox Church as the Great Martyr Barbara, was an early Christian Greek saint and martyr.

St Florian

Patron Saint of providing protection in battle.

Saint Florian was an officer of the Roman army, who occupied a high administrative post in Noricum, now part of Austria, and who suffered death for the Faith in the days of Diocletian.

St George

Patron Saint of archers, armourers, cavalry, and soldiers.

Saint George was a soldier of Cappadocian Greek origins, a member of the Praetorian Guard for Roman emperor Diocletian who was sentenced to death for refusing to recant his Christian faith.

St Ignatius of Loyola

Patron Saint of soldiers.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish Basque Catholic priest and theologian, who co-founded the religious order called the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and became its first Superior General at Paris in 1541.

St Joan of Arc

Patron Saint of soldiers.

Joan of Arc, nicknamed “The Maid of Orléans”, is considered a heroine of France for her role during the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years’ War, and was canonized as a Roman Catholic saint.

St Martin of Tours

Patron Saint of soldiers.

Saint Martin of Tours was the third bishop of Tours. He has become one of the most familiar and recognizable Christian saints in Western tradition.

St Maurice

Patron Saint of infantrymen and alpine troops.

Saint Maurice was the leader of the legendary Roman Theban Legion in the 3rd century, and one of the favourite and most widely venerated saints of that group.

Saint Philip of Agirone

Patron Saint of US Army Special Forces.

Philip Romolo Neri, known as the Third Apostle of Rome, after Saints Peter and Paul, was an Italian priest noted for founding a society of secular clergy called the Congregation of the Oratory.

St Quentin

Patron Saint of bombardiers and chaplains.

Saint Quentin, also known as Quentin of Amiens, was an early Christian saint. No real details are known of his life.

St Sebastian

Patron Saint of soldiers.

Saint Sebastian was an early Christian saint and martyr. According to traditional belief, he was killed during the Roman emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians, initially being tied to a post or tree and shot with arrows, though this did not kill him.

He was, according to tradition, rescued and healed by Saint Irene of Rome.

In all versions of the story, shortly after his recovery he went to Diocletian to warn him about his sins, and as a result was clubbed to death.

Other Patron Saints

Here are a few other patron saints that relate to the military.

AIRBORNE: Saint Michael medal. He is the patron saint of paratroopers.

St Michael the Archangel

Patron Saint of paratroopers.

Saint Michael is more frequently known as Michael the Archangel, the most senior of the three Archangels, Gabriel, Rafael and Michael.

Apart from his patronage of paratroopers, Saint Michael has four distinct roles.

Firstly, He is the Enemy of Satan and the fallen angels. He defeated Satan and ejected him from Paradise and will achieve victory at the hour of the final battle with Satan.

Secondly, He is the Christian angel of death - at the hour of death.

Saint Michael descends and gives each soul the chance to redeem itself before passing,

Saint Michael`s third role is weighing souls (Hence the saint is often depicted holding scales) on Judgment Day.

And Finally, Saint Michael is the Guardian of the church.

It was two chaplains, Valin  de la Vassiere and Jego, from the French paratroopers who first suggested that Saint Michael be chosen as the Patron Saint of Paratroopers. This was in Indochina in the late 1940s.

The first Mass in honour of the paratrooper saint was celebrated in Hanoi Cathedral on 29 September 1949.

Since then it has been celebrated as Saint Michael’s Day.

ST MICHAEL CELEBRATIONS: From left to right: Koos Moorcroft, PW van Heerden, Kenaas Conradie Dewald de Beer and Trevor Floyd.

South African connection

The first celebration of Saint Michael’s Day in South Africa was held in Oudtshoorn in 1972. And the story of how it began is an interesting one.

In 1969 four members of the South African Defence Force (all paratroopers) were deployed to Nigeria to train troops of the Biafran Army.

One of the training team, Staff Sergeant Trevor Floyd, was given a weekend off in September. He boarded a flight at Uli Airport in Nigeria on the Friday night and landed in Libreville in Gabon.

On landing he left the aircraft at the end of the runway, jumped a fence, and headed for a villa occupied by French soldiers.

He walked straight into a huge party. On asking what the occasion was, they informed him that the following day, Saturday, was Saint Michael’s Day.

Of course he had no clue as to what that was and was then informed that it was in celebration of Saint Michael, the patron saint of paratroopers.

Naturally, being a paratrooper himself, Trevor felt that it was his duty to celebrate with them.

The celebrations continued well into the Sunday night, meaning that Trevor missed his flight back to Uli and could only fly back on the Monday evening.

When he arrived back at Uli the then Major Jan Breytenbach was furious. He calmed down when Trevor explained the reason as to why he was late.

Major Breytenbach decided that they were going to hold their own Saint Michael’s Day celebration the very next weekend.

Once back on South African soil the four members of the training team would go on to become the first members of One Reconnaissance Commando (the Recces), South Africa’s Special Forces unit, which was formed in Oudtshoorn.

In 1972 it was decided that the first Saint Michael’s Day celebrations would take place in South Africa.

A Dakota was arranged to bring Parachute Battalion members from Bloemfontein for a jump and for the celebrations that would be held at the Creteria Hotel. Part of the group from Bloemfontein included Captains Joe Verster and Hennie Blaauw.

Other Recce members from Oudtshoorn included Dave Tippett, Jimmy Oberholster and Wannies Wannenberg. Even the ladies bought themselves new dresses for the occasion.

One Reconnaissance Commando was transferred to Durban in 1974 and the celebration were continued every year by the Special Forces units.

The Pretoria Canopy celebration of 2018 was a great success where Trevor Floyd told his story in the involvement in the first celebration held in South Africa.

Pretoria Canopy is planning to have their St Michael's function on the 28 September 2019.

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