Obscure Medieval Saint Still Grants Baby Requests


St LeopoldWhen I visited a fertility clinic for diagnostic tests a few years back, the place was packed to the gills. The nervous energy pulsed through the air as women considered investing their savings for treatments.

But this isn’t just another infertility story. This one includes a miracle from an obscure Medieval saint: St. Leopold of Austria.

I’m one of the unlucky women who has Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a leading cause of true infertility, rather than the “I waited so long to try that now it’s too late” variety. Women with PCOS recognize that they have a heightened chance of serial miscarriages if they are fortunate enough to get pregnant to begin with. The emotional distress can be as traumatic as the physical ailments that accompany this oft-misunderstood illness.

Even though I lived with PCOS worries for years, I was shocked when the doctor told me that I had only a 5-10% chance of conceiving. Really? That bad, huh? Truthfully, I was a little skeptical, but still…disturbed.

Something held me back from signing up for treatment. By the way, some avenues, like Clomid, are fine for Catholic PCOSers. Even so, the actual methods vary and the staffers I met seemed too busy marketing their success stats to care about moral concerns. The choices infertile couples have to make, by the way, are never easy. Catholic or not, ethical equations on a sheet of paper can never accurately reflect the raw emotion of real life scenarios that involve a deep yearning for a child.

Time went by, and I scheduled an appointment to follow up about my options, and also sent a prayer request to a priest who is a member of a community named in honor of St. Leopold. A month later, and a month before my appointment, I was pregnant!

Initially, I didn’t realize that the famous margrave (“marquis” in English) was behind the sought after miracle. St. Leopold is the patron saint of Austria and very little is written about him in the English language. He is patron of large families, death of children, and stepchildren. His family life explains his patronages. His first wife passed away at a young age and they had only one son together. His second wife, Agnes, lost her first husband after having 11 children. When the two widows married, they both became stepparents and formed a Medieval Brady Bunch. They had 18 children together, and tragically, lost seven.

A most virtuous ruler, Leopold was offered the role of Holy Roman Emperor and declined. This is perhaps the most impressive fact I have found about him. He was politically astute and ushered in an era of peace. A devout Catholic, he built monasteries and helped to resolve the Investiture Controversy.

Over the next year, I saw the Austrian saint’s fingerprints appear in my life. The puzzle pieces surrounding my baby’s entry into the world gradually sprinkled before me like fairy dust. While I was pregnant, the praying priest and I agreed to introduce more information about Leopold, who looks like Santa Claus in paintings, to English-speaking Catholics.

Once my son was born, I noticed some uncanny similarities between Leopold’s full name and the baptismal name we gave our son. As I researched the saint further, I learned that Leopold was documented to have helped someone have a child before. Albrecht, Habsburg duke of Austria, traveled to Leopold’s shrine to thank him for the birth of a son on November 15, 1339. This was 16 years prior to his formal canonization, which occurred after Rome uncovered an entire collection of miracles credited to Leopold.

Since Leopold’s life was dedicated to raising such a huge brood of children, it is natural that he would take a special interest in baby requests. If you or anyone you know is praying for a child, Leopold’s intercession can’t hurt! Now is the time to mark your calendar for a novena. Start praying on November 7th to end on November 15th, his feast day.


About Author

I am the author of the book, "How to Get to 'I Do' - A Dating Guide for Catholic Women" and a communications professional.

  • Claire

    Wow. I was almost 35 when I got married (and it certainly wasn’t my choice to wait that long, but that’s when God brought my husband and me together). Does this mean that my infertility wasn’t true infertility? I thought waiting till marriage to try to conceive was a good thing.

  • Amy

    Claire: I think you misunderstood my comment. Legit/medical cases of infertility vs. self-induced cases are apples and oranges, no? You said you happened to meet your husband later, not that you deliberately waited – by use of chemicals or a scorn for marriage – to try for children. Yet, deliberate
    waiting is very common in our culture. It’s why infertility clinics are
    so popular – people sometimes intentionally devalue their fertility and then, try
    to turn back the clock via methods that can have moral and ethical problems. We as Catholics are not shy about commenting on this issue – we have other views about God’s plan and want to educate people about that. If it upsets a few people…fine…that’s the price of holding a countercultural view.

    I would offer that PCOS is vastly different from situations where people happen to meet later…because PCOS causes symptoms other than infertility and is a major, life changing illness. It is normal, natural, and expected for women to not be as fertile as they age, and while it can be very painful for some people, it’s not the same situation as having a potentially debilitating illness like PCOS. Women who have PCOS should be able to express their feelings and stories without other women with entirely different issues denigrating their experience. This was my story – not anyone else’s. If you want to share your story, with a hope that it will help others in your shoes, I encourage you to do it.

    Regardless, a bottom line is that in my book and coaching practice, I encourage women to walk in the direction of their prayers and use their fertile years wisely. Thankfully, I found a saint who takes an interest in helping people get married and have children….and want to share him.

    • claire

      Amy, my comment was not intended to denigrate your experience, and I have no issue with encouraging women to use their younger, more fertile years wisely (or with speaking out about the immorality of devaluing fertility and using unethical infertility treatments). I am also very happy to learn of this saint. My issue is with being too quick to label other situations as invalid examples of infertility. Yes, it is natural for fertility to decline with age, but there are also legitimate cases of infertility of women who get married and try to conceive at a stage where it would be expected to be more challenging, but still reasonably good odds of achieving a pregnancy eventually. I don’t see much value in competing about whose situation is worse. That is going to vary from person to person. My heart goes out to anyone who is unable to conceive and sustain a fullterm pregnancy, regardless of the type of infertility. I know several women with PCOS who have been able to treat it effectively and conceive several children. I don’t have PCOS, but I have not been able to sustain a fullterm pregnancy. I don’t think those women would want to swap their type of infertility with mine. And while I would argue that my infertility and pregnancy losses are right up there with having a potentially debilitating disease (in terms of pain), I wouldn’t trade my situation for anyone else’s either, because without it I wouldn’t have adopted my son. Everyone has a right to share their stories and express their feelings, but as I said, I think it’s best to be careful about implying that a different type of infertility is not a true type.