Ranking of the Saints

Taylor Marshall over at Canterbury Tales listed where some saints fell in the birth order:

“Here are the birth orders of some of the world’s greatest Christians:

  • St. Thérèse de Lisieux – Doctor of the Church (ninth child)
  • St. Ignatius Loyola – founder of the Jesuits (eleventh)
  • St. Francis Xavier – perhaps the greatest missionary (thirteenth)
  • St. Catherine of Siena – Doctor of the Church (twenty-fourth)”


It made me think. What if there are other saints waiting to be born, but society or parents deem they can’t afford to have them? As families become smaller and smaller, are we exterminating saints?


7 thoughts on “Ranking of the Saints

  1. Sister Lisa, I really don’t think we should draw any conclusions about birth order on the basis of four examples. There are thousands of saints and choosing four is poor statistical sampling. Also, keep in mind that the siblings of these saints and those of other saints not mentioned may also have been quite holy, but just not canonized. Our Holy Father mentioned that most saints will never be recognized formally for their holiness. So, no, I don’t think small families are leading to the extermination of saints.

    • Thank you, Ruth Ann. You are right in saying that small families are not exempt from having saintly people arise from them. And of course a sampling of four is not in any stretch scientific sampling for a proof. I perhaps should have been more clear in my post to point out these obvious things, but being a passing thought, it was more to point out the potential lives lost, primarily to abortion. I had no intention to accuse small families of causing the extinction of saints. I appreciate your clarification.

      • It wasn’t clear to me from your post that you were referring to abortion, because small families aren’t necessarily small due to abortion. But, yes, abortion might be extinguishing potential saints. God bless you, Sister!

  2. You might ask how many of those siblings lived past the age of five, let alone into adulthood. And then wonder if saints were being “exterminated” by the conditions which lead to high infant mortality– including maternal malnutrition and exhaustion. We’re all potential saints, whether single abandoned orphans or one of a huge brood.

    • E.A. Peregrine. Yes, I agree with you, as pointed out in my response above, small families (and orphans – good point!) are not exempt from having saints arise from them (becoming them), and, as you say, we are all potential saints. Exactly. This is what every human being is called to.

      Infant mortality of history – and even today in developing countries – we see these things as a tragedy. I know from my own family experience, my great-grandfather was one of 21 siblings, and only half lived to adulthood. His five year old sister, Adelaide Eliza Dana, was one of the ‘exterminated’, buried in the wall of the mission church of San Luis Obispo (CA). But, in fairness, it is a stretch to compare her death from the causes of nature and human ignorance (nutrition, natural family planning) with those whose lives are lost to abortion. Her life was a desired one, and in faith, God had other plans for her, and others who shared her fate. God has plans for every conceived human being. The difference is, it He who gives life, and in His wisdom calls a soul home; abortion closes that openness to allowing God His right to be God, and our society is taking that role upon itself in selecting which conceived child shall have a shot at life.

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