An academic paper: Which saint is best to pray to if you’ve got Covid?

August 28, 2021 • 10:45 am

Inquiring minds want to know, and three Europeans (perhaps in cahoots with the divine) have answered:

When a reader sent me this article, and I read the online condensed version (it takes two minutes), I thought it as a joke. But no, it’s for real. You can see the journal site here, and a response to the article is the first one listed on the contents page of the latest issue. I’d love to see the response, or the full original paper (you can see a precis by clicking on the screenshot below).  I’ve archived the article’s precis here in case that for some reason they ditch the article.


Okay, I’m going to show you the whole “snippet” of the paper as presented by the journal:

Short report

Which Saint to pray for fighting against a Covid infection? A short survey



In the absence of a treatment still considered universally effective, and of a vaccine validated by the health authorities, we wanted to know which Catholic saint the European Christian community turned to in the event of infection with Covid-19 to request a miraculous healing.


An online survey was carried out on a sample of 1158 adults using social media tools.


All results are presented in this research, with a few saints in the majority, and some dictated by the symptomatology of the Covid-19 infection or the personalities of certain « doctor guru ».


This medico-anthropological study is revealing the psychology of Western patients vis-à-vis the magic-religious means used in the fight against diseases, particularly in the epidemic/pandemic context.

Section snippets


The relationship between religion and medicine is well known in human communities since antiquity. Medieval medicine was based on Hippocratic and Galenic doctrines, but it was also characterized by spiritual and divine influences. So, in European countries, in Middle Ages, Saints’ invocation for the curing of diseases was an usual practice.

Despite, the spiritual and religious dimensions have deviated from medicine after the Renaissance and the Late Enlightenment, the intercession to the Saints. . .


We conducted a survey on two of the most used social networks: Twitter and Facebook. The survey was conducted between August 21 and 25, 2020. Each author posted on his Twitter and Facebook page, the following question: “Which saint you would pray for fighting against a Covid infection?”. The total number of followers targeted by the question was 15,840 people (92% from Europe).


A total of 1158 adult anonymous participants (mainly from France and Italy) answered to our question. For obvious ethical reason, no sex, age or cultural background are available. All results are summarized in Table 1.


Analyzing the results in more detail, from the survey it emerges that the majority saint is St. Rita (Fig. 1). From a young age, Rita of Cascia (Italy, 1381-1457) dreamed of consecrating herself to God, but she was destined to marry a violent man. Rita’s patience and love changed her husband’s character. After the violent death of her husband and two children from illness, Rita decided to follow the youthful desire by entering the monastery of the Order of Sant’Agostino in Cascia (Italy) [4].


This short medico-anthropological study is revealing the psychology of Western patients vis-à-vis the magic-religious means used in the fight against diseases, particularly in an epidemic/pandemic context. The survey confirms that Catholic people continue to entrust their sorrows, their anxieties and their hopes to the divinity, especially in time of global stress, mainly if it is a suddenly-presented difficulty that have changed the people’s lifestyle. Moreover, the choice of the Saints to. . .

Authors’ contributions

AP had the initial idea of the search and contributed to the survey. AC contributed to the survey. PC wrote the first draft of the manuscript, with significant critical input from all other coauthors. All authors have read and approve the final article. PC is the manuscript guarantor.

Disclosure of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interest.

So if you don’t get vaccinated, you better start praying to Saint Rita.

This is unbelievably stupid. And their research used subjects garnered from Twitter and Facebook!

Note that this isn’t just a survey of opinion, but is somewhat prescriptive: “In the absence of a treatment still considered universally effective, and of a vaccine validated by the health authorities, we wanted to know which Catholic saint the European Christian community turned to in the event of infection with Covid-19 to request a miraculous healing.”

Elsevier should be ashamed of itself. If anybody has access to the letter of response, I’d love to see it.

h/t: Ginger K

36 thoughts on “An academic paper: Which saint is best to pray to if you’ve got Covid?

  1. Their methodology is suspect. Remember when The Literary Digest predicted Alf Landon would defeat FDR in the 1936 election, on the basis of their poll? The problem was non-random sampling–they polled their own subscribers, who were mostly upper and middle class, and so got a skewed result. “Sampling size cannot overcome sampling bias”.

    Same here. If they are using people connected to the internet, and using social media, they are again getting people with a higher socio-economic status, and fewer from the lower echelons. It seems reasonable that the two groups would have different preferred saints.

    Personally, I’m an atheist, but if I did feel like praying, it would be to Anoia, the Goddess of Things that get stuck in Drawers.

    1. Drawers: besides “a sliding, lidless, horizontal compartment”, and the plural of a person whose hand implements create pictures, there is a 3rd definition, pairs of which were owned by Queen Victoria.

      However, surely Anoia, despite the single “n” etc., refers to the 1st.

      1. Yes, in the context (it’s from Discworld), it is the first.

        Wow. Thinking of it as the third definition adds an entirely new, rather bizarre, picture to the debris of my mental attic.

        1. I’d begun to extract my tongue from my cheek when your reply appeared!

          And I am somewhat more than 14 years old, as my next reply would imply.

  2. Really? Elsevier was the publisher of Automatica, the International Federation of Automatic Control systems and control journal during my active research years. While it was a very, very expensive journal for libraries and universities, Elsevier offered an extremely reasonable rate for an individual to subscribe, a very enlightened provision. If this be real and not a spoof, I am very disappointed in the publisher; if a spoof, I am very disappointed in the editors.

    1. Some years ago anyway, some mathematicians among perhaps other academics considered Elsevier to be one of the worst ripoff publishers.

      See :

      An early specialty of mine long ago, originally Maxwell’s Pergamon Press, but then passing to Elsevier, which was deservedly nailed by the algebraic and geometric topologists. Their journal “Topology” had a top reputation and a sterling board of editors. Then they resigned, every last one of them simultaneously and instantly formed a new journal independent of Elsevier, which has thrived with the high reputation carrying over. Called “Journal of Topology”, very international but based in Britain.

      It had, way back around 1965, printed my 1st publication, so I have a slight bias perhaps.

      I don’t whether any other mathematical or scientific group has had the guts to do the same.

  3. Elsevier has a history of putting out fake/predatory journals, which they then bundle with subscriptions to their more legitimate products (as they view academic publications) and blackmailing university libraries into paying exorbitant annual licensing fees, forcing them to take all kinds of rubbish just to get the good stuff. And they seem to have whole company divisions devoted to trying to justify this flat-out larceny to the public. Many of us signed the Elsevier boycott petition a number of years ago, and the journal publishing this unbelievable tripe seems to be a good indication that the company’s business ethic—flat-out piracy—hasn’t changed a bit.

    1. When was the petition? My experience with them ended in the early 90’s. Were they engaged in their nefarious activities then? I was unaware.

      1. It was 2012; there’s a good summary of the history here: It was initiated by Tim Gowers, a Field Medalist, and supported by a number of other distinguished mathematicians, before attracting more general attention from scientists. The company’s promotion of predatory journals and other unethical publication strategies is documented at, among other places.

        This latter site has a number of particularly interesting posts, in some cases quite disturbing, e.g. I’d actually be very interested in our host’s take on this critique of top journals and the reliability of their experiments and results.

        1. Thanks Logician. Very enlightening to review the links. It turns out that my very own younger brother, an academic mathematician, was one of the large petition signers and boycotters! My association with the elsevier journal ended in the mid 90’s, but i did have the unpleasant experience of participating in an unsuccessful effort by my professional technical committee peers in aircraft controls to bring one of our journals under more control of the user engineers in the late 80’s. At least in those pre-web and digital software days, the journals did provide editing, proof, and printing services.

  4. This surely can’t be real – is it dated April 1st or something? It actually made me LOL and I’m still chuckling as I write! What the actual… ?

    It’s like a storyline from Father Ted – an idiotic plan that Dougal (the stupid priest) would come up with to please the Bishop!

    The only consolation is that they have a consistent approach: their ahem… ‘research methods’ are as moronic as the study itself. Twitter and Facebook! Just unbelievable.

    The publisher and editor(s) should be ashamed – mind you that applies to anyone involved. Just for laughs I’d love to see comments/correspondence from the reviewers!

  5. Elsevier’s notoriety for its rip-off business model goes back to its founding in 1880. It ripped off the name and the logo of the house of Elzevir (~ 1592-1712), the venerable Leiden family printing business which published Galileo’s final and definitive work, the “Two New Sciences”. The new
    Ellsevier, which squeezes money out of university libraries and proliferates ever more pointless journals like the one under discussion, has nothing to do with the original Elzevir printshops, other than the appropriated name. [Talk about cultural appropriation.]

  6. The researchers missed the most interesting question: Which saint’s petitioners had the best survival rate? Wouldn’t Catholics want to know this?

    To be charitable, this could be just a sociological study showing how stupid people are. Times of uncertainty and unpredictability are the times when religious thinking becomes more common. This kind of survey,targeting people whose future is highly uncertain, can “out” closeted believers who might normally be embarassed to admit they are supertitious. Unfortunately the precis of the survey does not say how many people answered “none”, or whether they targeted only Catholics.

  7. BTW, picking a saint for corvid is far easier. It’s clearly St Francis of Assisi – patron saint of birds and animals.

    I’m here all week folks!

  8. St.Rita: Do I understand correctly that this holy lady was saved from a life of wife/motherhood by divine intervention [eg some pox or other that got hubby and kids but spared her], so that she could pursue her desired career of nunning? So those praying to Rita hope that various vexacious relatives go down with the covid…

    Is there also a saint of life insurance and inheritance law?

  9. Unfortunately, the snippet doesn’t include Table 1 (at least on my screen), so we cannot survey the
    various saints invoked. Despite my mediocre score (13 out of 15 correct) on the knowledge of religion
    test, I will venture to nominate the best saint for covid prayer: it should obviously be Edmund the Martyr of East Anglia – patron saint of pandemics. Others among a vast range of possibilities can be found at:,_illness,_and_dangers .

  10. I was raised a Catholic, and I have no doubt that this publication and the sentiment behind it are real. Let me also use this occasion to remind everyone that with the Trinity, Mother Mary, the angels and the saints, Roman Catholicism is really a functional polytheism.
    Regarding research methods, I’m a retired librarian, and if a patron asked me this question about which saint to pray to, I would grab the copy of Butler’s Lives of the Saints off the reference shelf. I just did a quick search for the book and found out that copies of it are still in the reference collections of two public libraries in my vicinity. Since I visit these libraries quite often, next time I’m at one of them, just for giggles I’ll consult Butler’s and see if it can help me identify the appropriate patron saint for COVID sufferers. I’ll be glad to report my finding here.🤓

    1. Abstract
      Background: Intercessory prayer is widely believed to influence recovery from illness, but claims of benefits are not supported by well-controlled clinical trials. Prior studies have not addressed whether prayer itself or knowledge/certainty that prayer is being provided may influence outcome. We evaluated whether (1) receiving intercessory prayer or (2) being certain of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with uncomplicated recovery after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.

      Methods: Patients at 6 US hospitals were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups: 604 received intercessory prayer after being informed that they may or may not receive prayer; 597 did not receive intercessory prayer also after being informed that they may or may not receive prayer; and 601 received intercessory prayer after being informed they would receive prayer. Intercessory prayer was provided for 14 days, starting the night before CABG. The primary outcome was presence of any complication within 30 days of CABG. Secondary outcomes were any major event and mortality.

      Results: In the 2 groups uncertain about receiving intercessory prayer, complications occurred in 52% (315/604) of patients who received intercessory prayer versus 51% (304/597) of those who did not (relative risk 1.02, 95% CI 0.92-1.15). Complications occurred in 59% (352/601) of patients certain of receiving intercessory prayer compared with the 52% (315/604) of those uncertain of receiving intercessory prayer (relative risk 1.14, 95% CI 1.02-1.28). Major events and 30-day mortality were similar across the 3 groups.

      Conclusions: Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications.

  11. If not everyone who prayed to St. Rita lived, a second analysis, looking at how the prayers were offered, is called for. In this way we might determine not only who to pray to but how to pray(pleading, bargaining, promising, etc.) to increase the chances of healing!

  12. Growing up (non-Christian) I often wondered what saints were — some special mythical people or something? Later I learned about it and I was amazed anybody could possibly believe in them. Scratching a little deeper I wondered how anybody could believe the entire religion Thing.

    And then I recalibrated my view of the intelligence of our species.
    It was a bracing moment. A disappointing one.

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