Are there any saints who were soldiers? What was their faith journey like?
According to Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of Saints, edited by Matthew, Margaret, and Stephen Bunson, the following saints are considered patrons of soldiers: Joan of Arc, George, Hadrian, Ignatius of Loyola, Sebastian, and Demetrius.
Saints Preserve Us!, by Sean Kelly and Rosemary Rogers, lists these saints as military patrons: Faith of Agen, Martin of Tours, Mercury, Theodore the Recruit (general), Joseph of Cupertino (Air Force), Barbara (artillery), Maurice (infantry), Francis of Paolo (naval officers), and Michael (paratroopers).
Sebastian died as a martyr; Martin of Tours resigned his commission as a soldier; and Joan of Arc was betrayed into the hands of the English, who burned her at the stake. Wounded in battle, Ignatius of Loyola gave up a soldier’s life and eventually founded the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). Joseph of Cupertino was not a soldier but reportedly levitated. Maurice was one of 70 Christian soldiers who were martyred in France in 287 for refusing to take part in pagan rituals. Their feast is observed on September 22.
George was martyred in Palestine around 300 AD and was later considered a model for knights. Britain’s Order of the Garter has been under his patronage since it began in 1347. The chapel at Windsor Castle is named for him. His red cross on a white background is part of the British flag.
Before his ordination in 1904, Angelo Roncalli (the future Blessed Pope John XXIII) served a year in the 73rd Infantry Regiment of the Italian Army. During World War I, he was a military chaplain.
Holiness is possible in any time or place, and in almost any profession—as long as people are open to God’s grace and where it leads them.