The mature witness of child saints

When Pope Francis canonized child seers and siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto May 13, the centenary of the first apparition of the Virgin Mary at Fatima, he added to a long list of children and young people who are at some point on the road of sainthood.

Granted, the number of child saints is a small percentage of the 10,000 saints and blesseds recognized by the Church.

Still, at more than 400 souls, the number of known saintly children is substantial. This figure includes “Servants of God,” “Venerables,” “Blesseds” and saints.

It encompasses both those who lived truly heroic lives and those counted as martyrs simply because their parents held them at the moment of martyrdom.

According to an analysis by the Register using the most readily available sources, there are 429 children and youth — including teenagers — who can roughly be called sanctus, Latin for “holy,” from which we get our word “saint.” This list includes 210 Servants of God, 15 Venerables, 84 beati and 120 saints.

This does not include the Holy Innocents, because we can’t know how many children were in that group.

It does include, however, the 110 children martyred during the French Revolution, who are all counted as Servants of God.

Roughly 40% of the saints are female. The sex of one beatified child is unknown because the infant underwent martyrdom (technically, death in odium fidei, that is, in hatred of the faith) inside its mother’s womb just days before the expected delivery, along with six siblings.

Indeed, were it not for martyrdom, we would have very few child saints. Of course, in the early Church, there were martyr saints such as Tarcisius, Agatha, Agnes and Faith.

Even then, however, children accounted for just a few handfuls of saintly souls. And between 400-1499, the Church gained at most three child saints per century.

Starting in the 1500s, however, the number of child saints rose sharply, mostly due to martyrdom. Continue reading



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